What a wonderful world it would be if everyone accepted the simple moral premise of rejecting all acts of aggression. The retort to such a suggestion is always: it’s too simplistic, too idealistic, impractical, naïve, utopian, dangerous, and unrealistic to strive for such an ideal.
The answer to that is that for thousands of years the acceptance of government force, to rule over the people, at the sacrifice of liberty, was considered moral and the only available option for achieving peace and prosperity.
What could be more utopian than that myth—considering the results especially looking at the state sponsored killing, by nearly every government during the twentieth century, estimated to be in the hundreds of millions. It’s time to reconsider this grant of authority to the state.
No good has ever come from granting monopoly power to the state to use aggression against the people to arbitrarily mold human behavior. Such power, when left unchecked, becomes the seed of an ugly tyranny. This method of governance has been adequately tested, and the results are in: reality dictates we try liberty.
The idealism of non-aggression and rejecting all offensive use of force should be tried. The idealism of government sanctioned violence has been abused throughout history and is the primary source of poverty and war.
Fill in the blank.
There is no wrong answer.
Folks, if you want to see how the state collapses in the future, [observe how markets - that is, how human action - prevails over the coercive machinery of the government]. [State collapse] won’t happen through politics. It won’t happen by top-down reform. It won’t happen even through seminars. It will happen through the trial and error of entrepreneurship, because the market will not sit still. Faced with the ghastly costs of the anachronistic nation-state, it will continue to find creative and surprising ways around the coercive apparatus, effectively inventing new realms of freedom that permit progress to occur. Every act of entrepreneurship is revolutionary and rooted in the anarchist spirit. It strikes at the heart of the status quo. It dares to be dissatisfied with what is. It imagines something new and better. It brings about unexpected, unapproved, and progressive change by adding a new dimension of experience to how we understand ourselves and how we interact with others.
Folks, if you want to see how the state collapses in the future, [observe how markets - that is, how human action - prevails over the coercive machinery of the government]. [State collapse] won’t happen through politics. It won’t happen by top-down reform. It won’t happen even through seminars. It will happen through the trial and error of entrepreneurship, because the market will not sit still. Faced with the ghastly costs of the anachronistic nation-state, it will continue to find creative and surprising ways around the coercive apparatus, effectively inventing new realms of freedom that permit progress to occur.
Every act of entrepreneurship is revolutionary and rooted in the anarchist spirit. It strikes at the heart of the status quo. It dares to be dissatisfied with what is. It imagines something new and better. It brings about unexpected, unapproved, and progressive change by adding a new dimension of experience to how we understand ourselves and how we interact with others.
Literally, “anarchy” means “without an archon.” Archons were leaders of ancient Greek city-states. But being without a leader – without an archon – is not necessarily to be without law. The vast bulk of law emerges not from the commands of sovereign rulers but, rather, from the everyday interactions of countless ordinary people as they exchange, intermingle, cooperate, and come into conflict with each other. Only the most naïve social creationist equates the dictates of strongmen (or of groups of strongmen, such as assemble in legislatures) with “law.
Freedom, for example, … undoubtedly means freedom to drink oneself to death. The anarchist grants this at once; but at the same time he points out that it also means freedom to say with the gravedigger in Les Misérables, “I have studied, I have graduated; I never drink.” It unquestionably means freedom to go on without any code of morals at all; but it also means freedom to rationalise, construct and adhere to a code of one’s own. The anarchist presses the point invariably overlooked, that freedom to do the one without correlative freedom to do the other is impossible; and that just here comes in the moral education which legalism and authoritarianism, with their denial of freedom, can never furnish.
— Albert Jay Nock, On Doing The Right Thing (1924)
The Atlantic published a blog post a few days ago (shared on tumblr yesterday by azspot, and promoted to the #politics tag by politicalprof) claiming that “We Now Have Our Smallest Government in 45 Years.”
It shared this graph from the Hamilton Project:
Smallest government in years? Sounds like something to celebrate!
Alas, The Atlantic, Hamilton Project, azspot, et. al. are not celebrating.
Getting causation, correlation, and simple logic twisted around, The Atlantic's Jordan Weissmann ponders “how badly [this has] actually hurt the job market.” The Hamilton Project, every bit as state-loving as its proto-Keynesian namesake, agitates that cuts in government have “worsened the current economic situation and the nation’s unemployment rate,” paying no mind that government spending must always come at the expense of private (see: consensual) spendings, savings, and investments. Indeed, Hamilton flatly assumes that if employment ratios were kept the same “employment would be 1.7 million jobs higher today,” absurdly assuming that these new jobs would be filled solely from the unemployed and absurdly assuming that funding for these jobs would have no adverse affect on the private economy and thus employment.
Truth ultimately requires, in my opinion, a deeper understanding of economics than they perhaps may be willing to acquire, so let’s just address the canard that government is smaller.
To begin, observe the metric used. Usually, statists (leftists, most often) will employ GDP figures (inherently flawed calculations, see here and here) to fluster at perceived drops in government spending, as if a growth in an economy (see: all interacting individuals within a given region) must be joined by a corresponding increase in government largesse.
This claim of a smaller government takes a different tract, by comparing the total number of government employees to the total population and having this be a stand-in for the “size of government” in general. To anyone with even a cursory understanding of the state of the economy, one flaw is immediately apparent: ”To Population” is not “To Employed Population.” Considering the extended recession-related unemployment, with more people often completely dropping out of the workforce altogether than new jobs being added, overall employment to population is the lowest its been in decades. Should government jobs - paid for by the productive taxpayers* in the private (see: consensual) sector - be maintained at greater costs while employment drops everywhere else?
According to BLS, total employment-to-population dropped from 62.7% in 2002 (a pre-recession high point) to 58.5% in January 2012. This means (accepting Hamilton’s government employment figures as correct as I have been unable to find supporting numbers at neither BLS or FRED for “Federal, state, and local government, including government owned schools and hospitals, and the US Postal Service” for any year outside 2011), that the decrease in the ratio of government employment to population is essentially the same at about 7.7% to 8%. So this is at least a more illustrative figure of what’s happened: government employment has dropped, but private employment has dropped almost exactly as much. The gap is a little wider when taken from mid-2009, when Hamilton claims the “recovery began,” but the overall picture remains: unemployment is everywhere.
Of course, when faced with tightening budgets, reasonable people cut expenses of least utility. In other words: the less necessary or desired something is, the more likely its consumption will be foregone. So a person with less disposable income than usual will more likely cancel his hockey season tickets than starve. And since "unnecessary government employees" are like "wet rain," it seems reasonable that they should be more likely to go. Furthermore, as I’ve explained before, the politicians like to make those cuts hurt as much as possible by targeting those services the public find most appropriate and beneficial (either on principle or because government monopolies have crowded out alternatives). Therefore, police, teachers, emergency responders, and the like are always trotted out as martyrs for the cause of more taxes. This is why the Hamilton Project highlighted these jobs.
But, again, is total government employees actually determinant of the size of government? A ruthless dictatorship with no “employees” outside of its army would be small in total personell, but no one would actually call it a small government.
So let’s consider some more telling ways in which government is not, in fact, smaller.
For starters, we can look at money and spending. In 2002, total government spending for federal, state, and local governments was $3.7 trillion. In 2012, that figure rose to $6.3 trillion, nearly double. Over $2.5 trillion in stimulus spending - a net economic negative - in just the last few years. The federal debt was $6.2 trillion in 2002. It’s currently at $15.95 trillion, more than doubled in a decade. And it has grown even adjusted for inflation, though why should the figures be adjusted when inflation is the government’s doing anyway: the supply of money was $1.19 trillion in 2002 and $2.26 trillion today,
more than almost double.
Note that all those numbers got bigger and not smaller.
But spending is only one dimension on the size of the state.
The U.S. legal code is hundreds of thousands of pages long. Dodd-Frank alone started as 900 pages and is now nearly 9,000 pages of rules and regulations. Most of those laws and rules and regulations are ultimately unjust, as most represent interference in the peaceful interactions of free people.
We now have a government that can wage wars without declaring them, local police forces have drones and tanks and anti-aircraft weaponry, indefinite detainment and assassination of U.S. citizens without due process, intimate health decisions - and costs - fall under government purview after the passage of the Patient Protection (sic) and Affordable Care (sic) Act, federal raids of legal marijuana dispensaries have increased, immigrant deportations have hit record numbers, even limiting the size of sodas is being claimed as a proper role for government… We need licenses to braid hair and permission to get married. Students have to keep their speech segregated into government-designated zones. Governments claim the land of rightful owners in order to collect more tax money from the corporations who want to build on the land. Surveillance cameras are multiplying, the prison population has steadily exploded, internet activities are now closely monitored, we can’t fly to the next city over without getting zapped with unnecessary radiation or groped by agents of the state. Guitar makers are getting busted for profoundly stupid and arbitrary laws. Government helps the sugar and corn industries with subsidies and tariffs, making industries richer and all of us less healthy. The tax code is well over 72,500 pages long, steadily growing every year. Governments keep some of us from tinting our windows and others from protecting ourselves from armed thugs. Helpful drugs are kept from desperate patients. All while portions of our lives - our labor and wealth - is extracted through threat of force by governments who grant favors to their friends and corporate cronies.
Nearly every aspect of our lives is interfered with by the various states who presume to rule over us.
The idea that “we now have our smallest government in 45 years” is so fallacious that it necessitates the willingness of otherwise smart people to engage in outright sophistry.
The warfare state, the welfare state, the police state, the nanny state - the state is bigger in every way.
*(Note: government employees cannot be considered taxpayers. The taxes they “pay” are no different than an accounting gimmick. They are net tax consumers.)
It is not surprising that classical liberal and libertarian ideas are often attacked. After all they are the ideas that consistently oppose the current political systems of plunder, privilege and power lusting. The philosophy of liberty proclaims that each individual is unique and possessing inherent rights to his life, liberty and honestly acquired property. That government, if it is to exist, is to serve as the protector and guardian of our distinct individual rights, and not the master of men who are obligated to sacrifice themselves for some asserted “national interest,” “general welfare,” or “common good.”
The only reasonable meaning to the “common good” or the “general welfare” is when each individual is free to peacefully live his life as he chooses and is at liberty to voluntarily associate and interact with his fellow men for mutually beneficial improvements to their lives.
Whenever the political authority goes beyond a “defensive role” in society, it inescapably ends up using its police powers in ways that benefit some at the expense of others. It is virtually inevitable that those who use political power for their own gain at their neighbor’s expense will vehemently resist and oppose any attempt to stop them from feeding at the government trough.
But the strident nature of these attacks against classical liberalism and libertarianism shows just how much the supporters and users of political power fear the arguments being made by the friends of freedom.
In the United States we are in the midst of a most serious “class conflict.” I do not mean a class conflict in the bankrupt Marxian sense. I mean it in the sense that was understood by a number of early nineteenth century French classical liberals, such as Charles Dunoyer, Jean-Baptiste Say[,] and Frederic Bastiat.
There is on the one hand, as Dunoyer expressed it, a class of “industrious peoples” everywhere who wish nothing more than to peacefully go about their private business of working, saving and investing and trading with their neighbors for mutual improvements in their lives in an arena of free market exchange.
On the other hand, there is everywhere a class of plundering peoples – politicians, bureaucrats, special interest groups – receiving tax-based income redistributions and subsidies and benefiting from anti-competitive regulations and protections against and at the expense of their fellow human beings.
This is the great battle of the twenty-first century; it is what is really at the basis of all the current financial and debt crises confronting so many countries around the world. Its outcome will determine the fate of mankind for the remainder of this century and then into the next.
Austrian Economics, not surprisingly, has been attacked precisely because of its insightful and cogent analysis of how it was government intervention and central bank monetary manipulation that generated the unsustainable boom in the last decade that set the stage for the inescapable bust, which the world is still suffering from. The Austrians have also shown why it is the continuation of such political interventions and monetary mischief by central banks that have prevented and delayed any normal recovery out of the current recession.
How can the members of that plundering class, to which I referred, admit that they caused and have prolonged this boom and bust cycle without confessing the bankruptcy of both the ideas that rationalize and the policies that perpetuate their plundering ways?
Just How Libertarian is Gary Johnson?
Despite some seemingly genuine libertarian impulses, he unfortunately lacks the intellectual backing to form a proper philosophical foundation - particularly with regards to money and economics. I do have to give him credit for “evolving” his stance on war (at least rhetorically), which was previously more tolerant of interventionism.
But he hasn’t even read Economics in One Lesson…
From Gene Callahan’s Economics for Real People:
An unhampered market [that is, a free market without interference from the state] brings about its outcome through the voluntary choices of all people in that market. Any interference with the market process—such as rent control, farm subsidies, and so on—will, to some extent, thwart the realization of people’s preferences. People, in the face of such interference, will act to reassert their desires. However, the process has been made less efficient. One reason is the overhead of the government program itself. Another is the fact that market forces will reassert themselves, though in unexpected ways. If apples would be priced at $1.00 a pound on the unhampered market, but government sets the price at 60¢ a pound, people will still tend to pay the market price. However, they will go to the market expecting to pay 60¢ for a pound, and be surprised by paying 60¢ plus 40¢ worth of time waiting in line.
Even the minimal state, which attempts to provide only protection from the violence of others, runs afoul of such difficulties. Since the minimal state must tax, it must set the level of taxes, or, looking at the other side of the coin, it must decide how much protection to provide. Whatever level of protection it chooses, some people will be unhappy with that decision. Since, in a constitutional republic, the level of protection will be set somewhere in the middle of the range of desired amounts, there will be a large group of people who feel they are getting, and paying for, too much of it.
It’s not impossible that those people will choose to just grin and bear it, but it is very unlikely. Humans act in order to improve situations they find unsatisfactory, and the people paying too much in taxes, in their own eyes, have the motivation to act.
Not paying their taxes will subject them to violence from the state. But since those taxes were imposed on them by political means, it will occur to them that they can use the same means to try to gain some compensating benefit. Perhaps they will lobby to have extra protection for their neighborhood, to have a military base located nearby, thereby increasing local trade, or to get street lights on their road, in the name of increased security.
Whatever benefit they wrestle from the state will change the situation of those who were happy with the old amount of protection. They are paying the same amount in taxes as before, but some of their previous benefits have been shifted to others. Now they have a motivation to form an interest group and lobby the state to provide them with some new benefit as compensation for their loss. That creates a dynamic that tends to produce continual growth in state programs.
Furthermore, however wise and noble the founders of the state were, state service will act as a magnet for the person who wants to exercise power over others—as Hayek said, the worst rise to the top. In order to maneuver his way into a position of power, such a person will have every reason to rub salt in some interest group’s wound. By goading “his” interest group on in its grievance, a politician can build a “constituency” that he can ride to power.
[H]e’s a thoughtful guy with an intelligently pragmatic streak that leads him to recognize that government is out-of-control huge and expensive… But he seems to lack either the systematic thinking or moral fervor that makes me trust him to reliably come to truly libertarian conclusions on many issues. While his conclusions are frequently, even mostly, libertarian, I’m not quite sure his natural instincts are.
He later notes that Johnson’s ideas on foreign policy “lack Paulian coherence” as evidenced by his willingness to continue drone attacks and, as Johnson phrased it, “leave all options on the table.”
Well, it finally happened: I finally read a libertarian post so silly I couldn’t resist a response.
Yet you could resist directly responding… (thanks to huskerred for bringing this post to my attention).
To simplify, the libertarian in question claimed that no decision was legitimate unless he had consented to it, and that no prior decision could compel his compliance as he had not consented to it.
As quite obviously the “silly” libertarian in question, I’d like to clarify that what I “claimed” was two-fold: 1. “I believe people should be able to peacefully associate with others in any way all parties voluntarily agree to.” And related to the first, 2. “Someone cannot make an agreement for me,” or as the title of my post read, “Self-ownership is not conditional on the agreements of past generations.” (How foolish of me to consider such thoughts so uncontroversial!)
But your summation is sufficient if we slightly alter it to read: “no decision [affecting his self-ownership, or regarding his life, liberty, or property] was legitimate unless he had consented to it, and that no prior decision could compel his compliance as he had not consented to it.”
There are at least three profound things wrong with this argument: it’s wrong on its face; it’s wrong on social institutions; and it has no promise for building a real world social order. Let me take each in turn.
First, as to the premise: it’s just wrong. For example, I have an 8 1/2 month old son, and I make decisions for him all the time that are entirely legitimate and (probably) appropriate. Likewise, we generally don’t advocate letting crazy people kill themselves, or allowing gunmen to walk into crowded rooms and open fire. There are all kinds of circumstances in which one legitimately has one’s right to make a specific decision taken away, and in which one’s freedom to consent to an act (such as your incarceration) is denied. A blanket statement “never” is, well, silly.
Irrespective of your forthcoming anticipation of the objection, the objection still remains. You say “it’s wrong” and you do not elaborate or explain, simply offer examples of an infant, a “crazy” suicidal person, and a dangerous criminal. Therefore your argument is that my premise is wrong because infants, crazies, and villains exist? Seeing as how my example, in the post that caused an irresistible response, was about a non-crazy, non-criminal adult - this seems to be an irrelevant conclusion.
Now, anticipating the objection that what the person meant to say—but didn’t, even in a follow up post—was that all RATIONAL people should have absolute freedom of choice, let me state that the politics of determining who is and isn’t “rational” are fraught with bias. Ask any woman in history who was denied the right to vote on the grounds that they were “emotional” not “rational,” or any ex-slave who was deemed (by their former masters) to be too “child-like” to be a full member of society. “Rational” is a lovely word. It’s also a tool of repression.
I agree with your last few points here: determining rationality is often fraught with bias and certainly can be (indeed, often has been) a tool of repression.
The fact remains, however, that in every “system,” people find different ways to determine whether a child has reached the mental capacity to offer “rational consent.” (In most countries and territories, an arbitrary age is used which ultimately has little bearing on an individual’s ability to reason or self-govern.) In every “system,” people find different ways to determine whether an individual merits intervention that would otherwise violate the non-aggression principle due to said individual’s mental instability.
This is, without question, a controversial topic that merits thoughtful deliberation: how does one make these determinations in the most fair, just, and humane way possible? In fact, in libertarian and anarchist circles, fervent debate is made of this very difficult question (particularly with regards to children and the role of their parents/guardians). Some examples of anarcho-capitalist view(s) may be found here, here, here, here, and here - though minarchist or consequentialist libertarians may have other ideas. As a father of two young daughters, this is a question that I have pondered many a time.
My view is that in essentially all cases, self-asserting individuals should be treated as self-owners with full rights over their lives, liberty, and property. Yours - as your examples seem to imply - is to view all individuals as potentially irrational (in an self-asserted, mentally-capable sense), so there must exist an entity to place us all as equals in subservience - that we are all effectively repressed.
Perhaps I misunderstood where you stand… but whatever the determination, it is wholly irrelevant to my original post. In that post, I was discussing an unambiguous property owner and a clearly rational self-owner. Your first “profound thing” is both unsubstantiated and immaterial to the idea you wished to refute.
Second, as to the way social institutions work, the simple fact is that by the time my son is of an age where he might choose to be, god help us, a libertarian, he will have benefitted from a vast array of social goods and services that depended on inter-generational commitments of time and labor and money. He will have drunk, bathed and played in untold gallons of safe water. He will have breathed safe air and eaten food that (basically) was safe. He will have not been electrocuted each time he turned on a light switch—which delivered power across an array of regulated mechanisms over large spaces of territory. And he will have enjoyed much, much more. Here’s the thing, though: all of it—ALL OF IT—will have been organized and paid for at least by his parents’ taxes and fees, his grandparents’ and fees, and his great-grandparents’ taxes and fees.
You’re arguing in circles. Is the fact that someone before you paid taxes and fees that they never consented to justification for you to pay taxes and fees that you never consented to?
And that one receives an unrequested benefit does not behold one to whatever demands and reciprocity the benefactor claims to be entitled to. If you arrive home from work tonight and your neighbor has mowed your lawn without any prompting from you, you are not required to pay whatever bill your neighbor leaves in your mailbox.
Furthermore, you offer the implicit (and ridiculous) assumption that safe water, clean air, wholesome food, and regulated electrical power would be non-existant without a loving state extracting fees and taxes to provide them. Funny, that.
The simple fact is that if you wish to have any kind of structure, institution or practice that lasts more than the time it takes two people to exchange whatever good or service they are exchanging, then a commitment beyond a one-to-one agreement is necessary. This need only grows more significant and more complex and social organizations expand in size and scope. Of course, as an adult one can choose to live outside these social orders: go and become a hermit. But if you wish to enjoy the benefits of society, you have to pay some of the costs of society. At least in a democracy you (ideally) get to have some say over those costs.
Again, you’re saying a whole lot of nothing baked into a cake of saccharine statism. We need the state and its monopoly on force to compel people to do things they do not consent to, otherwise we’d be dead in ditches from razor blades in our unregulated oatmeal.
That most regulation actually helps the larger corporations (and connected politicians, bureaucrats, plutocrats, et al) within an industry and typically shields them from wrongdoing is, I’m sure, a necessary evil. It’s merely an unfortunate side-effect that every area in which the state has inserted itself - education, health, nutrition, transportation, etc. - it is a giant, bureaucratic, expensive, dangerous, corporatist mess.
Third, on what should we do instead, let me say that I have never, ever heard a libertarian even vaguely hint at an answer to this. I have seen an endless number of “the government sucks” posts from libertarians but not a single answer to the question: how do I get electricity in a libertarian world? Where everyone has to consent to everything all the time? How do I get safe water? How do I make NASA and a national park and, yes, how do I make sure that actual enemies don’t attack?
You’ve “never, ever heard a libertarian even vaguely hint an answer… [as to] what [we should] do instead.” You “have never seen a libertarian do this in even a vaguely compelling, real world way.” You claim that “[m]ost of the libertarian posts that come up on [your] dashboard are little more than ideological screeds.” You are “still seeking libertarian blogs that [explain] the alternative [to the state].” But then you add “Don’t offer me fantasies. Offer me an argument, preferably one grounded in historical experience” - so that just like the slave owners not so many years ago who dismissed the idea of abolishing slavery, you can shrug off an argument, not on its ethics or merits, but on whether it has successfully been implemented somewhere.
Of course, reality is that if you’ve “never, ever heard a libertarian even vaguely hint an answer… [as to] what [we should] do instead,” then the problem lies squarely with you. Because most of the libertarian and anarcho-capitalist blogs, sites, books, economists, historians, philosophers, educators, and thinkers I read seem to fairly regularly discuss alternatives.
But, of course, you only offer this straw man objection to feign good faith that you’re willing to consider the counter-argument - despite the fact that counter-arguments abound. Indeed, this is such a broad objection that there is no single link I could offer to cover it all. Instead, I offer you what - to a formidable professor such as yourself - likely amounts to little more than light summer reading on not just the libertarian alternative, but the more “extreme” anarcho-capitalist alternative: Chaos Theory, Power and Market, The Machinery of Freedom, Libertarian Anarchism: Responses to 10 Objections, The Private Production of Defense, The Privatization of Roads and Highways, Practical Anarchy, Society without Coercion.
Ultimately, however, offering practical alternatives is secondary to recognizing that, as I stated in the post you found so silly, 1. “People should be able to peacefully associate with others in any way all parties voluntarily agree to.” 2. “Someone cannot make an agreement for me.”
A wife being beaten by her husband need not offer a “practical alternative” to declare his violently aggressive treatment of her wrong and a violation of her self-ownership (much less consider what benefits she gains in return), especially if the husband reserves the right to determine if the alternative is a “fantasy.” Indeed, she’d need only say (to borrow your phrase): “just stop.”
"[E]very argument usually ends up becoming a defense of what’s possible when government is not there to provide a good or perform a service (poorly and inefficiently).
But the salient point in my consistent position against government overreach is: no one could really know how something may best be done once free people are able to utilize the market’s ingenuity-incentivizing system of supply, demand, competition, cooperation, and comparative advantage to create efficient alternatives.
The mutually beneficial trade of a free, decentralized market is far superior to central planning, and … the results of which are essentially unknowable for two fundamental reasons. First, to paraphrase Hayek, there’s no way to imagine what can be designed by millions of people acting freely; and second, to paraphrase Mises, it would be impossible to implement any scheme properly or efficiently even if planned by intelligent, well-meaning angels.”
It’s one thing to critique the way the US does these things now. Indeed, I do it all the time. But it’s quite another to think through an alternative. And I have never seen a libertarian do this in even a vaguely compelling, real world way. Until you can answer these questions, and address my first two points with more than a mocking tone and a fantastical story, please, libertarians, I beg you:
stop claiming no decision or action taken by anyone else can ever be legitimate over you in any way. Just stop.
So to recap, your three ”profound things” countering my assertion that people are not obliged to participate in activities they do not consent to are:
- Infants, crazies, and villains exist, therefore believing people can’t be compelled to agreements against their will is “just wrong.”
- Compelling people against their will is acceptable because people [arguably] benefit from others being compelled against their will. Also, compelling people against their will is fundamental to preventing society from descending into a dangerous spiral of death and destruction.
- Compelling people against their will is acceptable because it’s the best idea we can think of.
An enthralling argument.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time you have fundamentally disregarded consent.
I’ve often heard the claim that libertarians can’t be racist because they believe in individualism instead of collectivism, or something like that.
You know what? I call bullshit.
Racism can be done on a collective level, as well as an individual level. A form of collective racism would be state segregation laws. A form of individual racism would be not interacting with someone because of their skin colour.
It would also happen in a libertarian society, where people would be free to interact or not interact with whom they please, including people of colour.
Of course, instituting the state to deal with issues of racism creates far worse problems, as it leads to collective racism in the form of systemic discrimination.
Racism isn’t an issue for states to deal with, but for societies, and people on a micro level. Passing it off to benevolent overlords doesn’t solve the problems, it only widens them, and creates new ones.
While I agree that it is possible for a libertarian to be racist, the point usually being made is that racism itself is a collectivist idea in that it views people as parts of a group instead of as individuals. Therefore, an individualist libertarian who disparages and mistreats a person because of the group she belongs to is not being consistent with his libertarian ideals. This is not unlike the ostensibly devout religious person who nonetheless violates the teachings of his faith and eats a forbidden meat, or commits adultery or theft or murder.
And while it’s true that one’s freedom to associate means that he or she may choose to not associate with anyone he or she chooses (even for reasons as ridiculous as skin color), in a libertarian “society,” racists would not be protected from the natural costs and consequences of their behavior.
The Constitution of the United States of America, with its written limitations on government and its written guarantees of human freedom, is the greatest political document ever written in the history of the world. It is the foundation of the American government and everyone who works in the government takes an oath to preserve, protect, and defend it.
Yet, that very document and those very oaths have brought us the all-encompassing leviathan we have today.
No words on parchment could ever protect us from a metastatic state. Only intelligent, sovereign, self-governing individuals, constantly vigilant against all encroachments and compromises to our autonomy, could ever hope to preserve liberty.
If even “the greatest political document ever written” has failed, despite the fact that “everyone who works in the government [has taken] an oath to preserve, protect, and defend it” - then we must all realize that believing more words would fix things amounts to little more than blind faith.
The state is the enemy of mankind, and our fight is an intellectual one. We must spread knowledge, reason, and the will to be free to the unthinking, acquiescent masses if we hope to overcome tyranny.
Thanks for answering my question with your post on the Warlord Objection, but it didn’t quite address what I was getting at. My concern was less that an anarchy would degenerate into constant war, but more that it’s more susceptible to some tyranny emerging, possibly from a cult of personality, while a limited government only becomes repressive by great violence or over a long period of time. Your answer helped, but didn’t fully address the concern. - booksofthought
G’day BooksofThought :). Such is the nature of only have one hundred odd characters to deal with. You’re right, but implicit within that though was that the examples you describe in your question; are failed states. In no way are they an indictment of ‘anarchy’, or the concept of a free society. To better address your question though:“I am of the opinion that a minarchy (that is, a state that only has control of law, and not necessarily monopolistic law) provides a valuable service to a free and voluntary people: it prevents the emergence of a much more intrusive and repressive state.”
This is essentially Robert Nozick’s Immaculate Conception of the State.
- no existing State has been immaculately conceived, and therefore Nozick, on his own grounds, should advocate anarchism and then wait for his State to develop;
- even if any State had been so conceived, individual rights are inalienable and therefore no existing State could be justified;
- every step of Nozick’s invisible hand process is invalid: the process is all too conscious and visible, and the risk and compensation principles are both fallacious and passports to unlimited despotism;
- there is no warrant, even on Nozick’s own grounds, for the dominant protective agency to outlaw procedures by independents that do not injure its own clients, and therefore it cannot arrive at an ultra-minimal state;
- contrary to Nozick, there are no “procedural rights,” and therefore no way to get from his theory of risk and nonproductive exchange to the compulsory monopoly of the ultra-minimal state;
- there is no warrant, even on Nozick’s own grounds, for the minimal state to impose taxation;
- there is no way, in Nozick’s theory, to justify the voting or democratic procedures of any State;
- Nozick’s minimal state would, on his own grounds, justify a maximal State as well; and
- the only “invisible hand” process, on Nozick’s own terms, would move society from his minimal State back to anarchism.
Thus, the most important attempt in this century to rebut a private law society and to justify the State fails totally and in each of its parts.”
You mention no monopoly of law, then it’s not a state… and if it’s competing with others which are voluntarily funded via contract, then you’re at a free market in security & defense and provision of law: you’re a voluntarist, anarcho-capitalist, supporter of private law. Otherwise, your claim begs the question - how does it prevent the emergence of a much more intrusive and repressive state?
If you keep a minarchy on a leash, it’ll be a lot harder to get people on board with any would-be kingdom or dictatorship, as there will be no “power vacuum” to fill, as many historical examples of anarchy have had (think Afghanistan between the Soviets leaving and the Taliban taking over, or England between the death of Charles I and the restoration of the monarchy).
Limited government, minarchy is utopian. As mentioned earlier, the countries set up as examples - are examples of failed states. As you note, monopolies are bad. Only the market provides real checks and balances. For those that are poor, services are provided - like they are now, done via the market.
In regards to the “power vacuum”, what vacuum? Only such a vacuum exists when the state is taken as granted and eternal. It’s not, and is the antithesis of liberty. Here is an actual historical example that makes the case.
In regards to how would private law work, both Hoppe and Murphy deal with it quite well.
In response to:
“it’s more susceptible to some tyranny emerging, possibly from a cult of personality, while a limited government only becomes repressive by great violence or over a long period of time.”
You’ll have to walk me through the logic with this one. To a large degree it begs the question. Because isn’t it exactly the opposite. Hasn’t America experienced: The Articles of Confederation -> U.S Constitution -> World Empire… and didn’t we see a cult of personality in Barack Obama during the last election?
This is pretty good.
"We’re allowed to ask [the state] to tell us to do what we want them to tell us to do…"
(Produced by Graham Wright and based on a talk by Larken Rose. This clip is edited for time. Original video found here. No ownership claimed.)