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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10475/what-libertarianism-is/

What Libertarianism Is

August 17, 2009 by

Libertarians tend to agree on a wide array of policies and principles. Nonetheless it is not easy to find consensus on what libertarianism’s defining characteristic is, or on what distinguishes it from other political theories and systems.

Various formulations abound. It is said that libertarianism is about: individual rights; property rights; the free market; capitalism; justice; the non-aggression principle. Not all these will do, however. Capitalism and the free market describe the catallactic conditions that arise or are permitted in a libertarian society, but do not encompass other aspects of libertarianism. And individual rights, justice, and aggression collapse into property rights. As Murray Rothbard explained, individual rights are property rights. And justice is just giving someone his due, which depends on what his rights are. FULL ARTICLE

{ 135 comments }

Othyem August 21, 2009 at 10:27 pm

@Russ

You’re confusing libertarianism with some other consequentialist/utilitarian moral philosophy. The fact that you think Stephan Kinsella’s (and many, many other’s) conception of libertarianism–i.e, a form of (philosophical) anarchism–will lead to “more pain, hardship, suffering, and death” has ultimately nothing to do with property rights in oneself and the extension of that.

So, more people will suffer in an anarchist society? Well, let them *each* voluntarily enter into an explicit agreement and re-enter life under government. Those “rugged individualists” as they’re so called can try to hash out a nasty, brutish, and short life for themselves on the outside. What’s wrong with that?

@Nick

“I would love to know when the arbitrary(surely not “natural: see nature) right to not be coerced is applied to the human being. Surely a 2 year old can be punished for disobedience, can he not?”

I’m always surprised when I see people dispute such fundamental axioms as self-ownership. Anyways, you’re presumably comparing a government’s power to coerce and discipline its citizenry as equivilant to a parent’s power to discipline his or her child. Although libertarianians have differing viewpoints on this, the philosopher A. John Simmons has pointed out, it’s an assumption to assume that parents, in fact, have ANY “right” to discipline their children for disobedience. Children, strictly speaking, have no “natural duty” to obey their parents. Now, whether or not they have a MORAL duty to obey their parents, I think, is largely dependent upon their circumstances and is another issue altogether. Moreover, even if children DID in fact have some natural duty to obey their parents, it still doesn’t follow that this analogy applies equally to the child/parent citizen/government framework.

Russ August 21, 2009 at 11:58 pm

Peter wrote:

“Well, sure; Adolf Hitler could call himself libertarian if he wanted. But him calling himself libertarian doesn’t mean he is libertarian.”

No, Hitler wouldn’t be a libertarian even if he called himself one. But I am a libertarian, just not the kind Stephan would prefer that I be. Stephan is like a Peikoffian Objectivist saying that a Kellyite isn’t really an Objectivist, or a Leninist saying a Trotskyite isn’t a real Marxist. Or, for you Monty Python fans, a member of the Judean People’s Front saying a member of the People’s Front of Judea isn’t a real Jew. ;-)

Magnus wrote:

“Since when did I consent to having my liberty and property put to a vote?”

I never said you did. A valid, minimal state doesn’t put your rights up for a vote. It only protects your rights.

Othyem wrote:

“You’re confusing libertarianism with some other consequentialist/utilitarian moral philosophy. ”

No, you and Stephan are confusing libertarianism as a whole with your particular formulation of libertarianism. Stephan is just another person who thinks that his is the only “true” version of X-ism, whatever X might happen to be.

“So, more people will suffer in an anarchist society? Well, let them *each* voluntarily enter into an explicit agreement and re-enter life under government. Those “rugged individualists” as they’re so called can try to hash out a nasty, brutish, and short life for themselves on the outside. What’s wrong with that?”

What’s wrong is that the “rugged individualists” might happen to interact with those of us who believe in a minimal government in a way such that somebody thinks their rights got violated. Then what happens? Hatfield-McCoy blood feuds? If all the anarchists were “on the outside”, that would be different. I wouldn’t mind if all the anarchists ran off to Somalia to live. (I think they would be supremely stupid to do so, but that’s another matter.)

Gil August 22, 2009 at 12:53 am

“Since when did I consent to having my liberty and property put to a vote?” – Magnus.

Are you descendant of a Libertarian family who lived in America before the Founding Fathers who in turn forced a new style of government onto your family? If a government was set up voluntarily before your family arrived do you as an immigrant have the right to trash the society because they are ‘using force & fraud against’ you (“i signed nothing”)? How annoying would it be for minarchist societies facing repeated sorties from anarchists trying to seize public land and property from the minarchists on the contention the public property is effectively the ‘commons’ and therefore they have to right to homestead it and minarchists are ‘iniating force’ when they’re trying to stop the anarchists.

Peter August 22, 2009 at 1:54 am

But I am a libertarian, just not the kind Stephan would prefer that I be.

You’re a mostly-libertarian, perhaps, but you’re not all the way there since you advocate the anti-libertarian initiation of force to accomplish certain ends.

If a government was set up voluntarily before your family arrived do you as an immigrant have the right to trash the society because they are ‘using force & fraud against’ you (“i signed nothing”)?

Absolutely. Of course.

How annoying would it be for minarchist societies facing repeated sorties from anarchists trying to seize public land and property from the minarchists on the contention the public property is effectively the ‘commons’ and therefore they have to right to homestead it and minarchists are ‘iniating force’ when they’re trying to stop the anarchists.

I’m sure it would be very annoying. That’s the minarchists’ problem. What’s it got to do with right and wrong?

Magnus August 22, 2009 at 2:41 am

I never said you did. A valid, minimal state doesn’t put your rights up for a vote. It only protects your rights.

Why don’t you tell me exactly what you think this supposedly-valid “minimal state” actually does? Then I’ll tell you if it violates my rights.

In your answer, please pay special attention to the manner in which this supposedly-valid “minimal state” obtains funds for its minimal activities.

Please also address the extent to which people would be permitted, without threat of retaliation or coercion, to opt out of the “services” that this “minimal state” claims to provide.

Are you descendant of a Libertarian family who lived in America before the Founding Fathers who in turn forced a new style of government onto your family? If a government was set up voluntarily before your family arrived do you as an immigrant have the right to trash the society because they are ‘using force & fraud against’ you (“i signed nothing”)? How annoying would it be for minarchist societies facing repeated sorties from anarchists trying to seize public land and property from the minarchists on the contention the public property is effectively the ‘commons’ and therefore they have to right to homestead it and minarchists are ‘iniating force’ when they’re trying to stop the anarchists.

1. There are no “Founding Fathers.” Their proclamations about having “founded” anything are meaningless and not binding on me or anyone else.

2. The purported definition of a certain patch of dirt as “America,” as a territory in which their proclamations were to supposedly be perpetually binding as to all who tread upon it, is utterly void and ineffective.

3. Any “government” that was voluntarily set up before I arrived is only binding on the actual people who consented to it, not me or anyone else. Consent cannot be imputed, by force, on someone, even upon a late-comer.

4. There is no such thing as “public land” because there is no such thing as a “public.” It’s a completely imaginary concept. The claim of ownership, by anyone, over unused land is totally invalid. It’s just noise and hot air, and can be properly disregarded.

Gil August 22, 2009 at 5:08 am

“There is no such thing as ‘public land’ because there is no such thing as a ‘public’. It’s a completely imaginary concept. The claim of ownership, by anyone, over unused land is totally invalid. It’s just noise and hot air, and can be properly disregarded. ”

What a coinkidink! The imperial Old World nations thought the same way towards the natives of the New World.

2nd Amendment August 22, 2009 at 8:46 am

Nick,

One should not be punished for disobedience but only for wrongdoing.

Parents should teach children to use their heads, make up their own minds, take responsibilities, take calculated risks, critical thinking.

But parents should not teach children to obey, this is really destructive.

Hitler had an army of obedient drones. Obedience at all costs is apocalyptic.

Russ August 22, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Damn, it’s like listening to a skipping record here (did that date me?)

Peter wrote:

“You’re a mostly-libertarian, perhaps, but you’re not all the way there since you advocate the anti-libertarian initiation of force to accomplish certain ends.”

No, I’m a libertarian. You, Stephan or even Murray Rothbard don’t get the sole right to decide what the word means, especially if you are against IP. “Libertarianism” is just a general term. Wikipedia has a good definition:

“Libertarianism is a term used to describe a broad spectrum of political philosophies which seek to maximize individual liberty and minimize or even abolish the state.”

The Rothbardian version of libertarianism, which defines libertarianism as the position of being against all initiation of force, is only one definition among many. It implies either that anarchism would result in the maximal individual liberty, or that maximizing liberty is not important, neither of which I can agree with. And I hate to tell you, but Rothbard’s definition is on the fringe of a fringe movement. Of course, to you guys, that’s good, because that makes you more pure and radical.

I can’t understand why you guys can’t be civil with others who want to go in the same general political direction as you. Heck, once we achieve a minimal government, and you want to go further, then you can go your own way. But we’re a long way from that day, and until then, why can’t we work together without all this “You’re not a *pure* libertarian!” crap? Must you divide the libertarian movement into little, tiny, ineffectual splinter groups just for the sake of doctrinal purity, when the libertarian movement is ineffectual enough already? What is it with you guys? Do you all have Asperger’s Syndrome or something? It’s no wonder people like Michael Medved call us “Losertarians”.

Adam Knott August 22, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Hi Stephen.

Regarding these assertions in your article:

“Libertarianism recognizes that only the self-ownership rule is universalizable and compatible with the goals of peace, cooperation, and conflict-avoidance.”

and

“Libertarian property rights principles emerge as the only candidate that satisfies these criteria.”

I am unaware of any proof that the principle of voluntarism or voluntary consent is not universalizable as a principle of libertarianism that can serve to achieve the goals of peace, cooperation, and conflict-avoidance. So I have to disagree with these assertions.

Lockean property rights theory is how the Rothbard/Hoppe school of libertarian thought grounds its defense of libertarianism. Certainly the theories of Rothbard and Hoppe are not identical with libertarianism.

In your article, I couldn’t find a single use of the words “voluntary” or “voluntary consent,” though I found one reference to “consent.” Because of this, many non-Rothbardian libertarians will interpret your particular conception of libertarianism as an argument for a single libertarian legal order, to be instituted as the single legal order for all libertarians, without regard to individual voluntary consent.

I’m not necessarily proposing you change your conception of libertarianism to include voluntary consent, because I think doing so may undercut the natural law theoretical position. But I do claim that the conscious avoidance of a theory of libertarianism based on voluntary consent cannot go unnoticed by non-Rothbardian libertarians, and to the extent a theory of libertarianism is advanced which seeks to bypass or override the voluntary consent of individuals, it will be strenuously disavowed by other schools of libertarian though.

Adam Knott August 22, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Sorry. Last word should be “thought.”

Stephan Kinsella August 22, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Adam:

“Libertarian property rights principles emerge as the only candidate that satisfies these criteria.”

I am unaware of any proof that the principle of voluntarism or voluntary consent is not universalizable as a principle of libertarianism that can serve to achieve the goals of peace, cooperation, and conflict-avoidance. So I have to disagree with these assertions.

I am not sure what you mean by “voluntarism” or “voluntary consent.” It only makes sense to me if it implies property rights. After all, consent, or permission, implies the right to withold consent, or permission–and this consent is necessarily pertaining to a user of a particular scarce resource that some other person wants to use, and that you apparently have the right to withhold or grant consent for. I.e., that you have ownership of–property rights in.

So you seem to be talking about property rights but insisting on using idiosyncratic language to describe it and eschewing perfectly good terms like property rights.

If “voluntarism” means something other than property rights, then it is not libertarian.

In short, my argument is that only X satisfies the “goals of peace, cooperation, and conflict-avoidance.” And X means assigning exclusive rights to control in a universalizable control. The word to describe this right to conttrol is “property right”.

Mark August 22, 2009 at 9:09 pm

So if a buddy of mine puts a gun to head, am I violating his rights if I take it away from him? What if he’s in my house when he does it?

Bala August 22, 2009 at 9:10 pm

Russ,

You are dead right on a lot of things, especially Stephan’s pompous attitude and his uncivil style of writing and responding. The other part is of course the rather dogmatic “axiom” of opposing all aggression. I specifically find the translation “absence of agression” funny because it is metaphysically impossible, at least as long a we are talking of a world of human beings (warts and all). I fully agree with your idea of “being for liberty” rather than “opposing aggression”.

Stephan’s notion that liberty means the absence of aggression is nothing short of peurile because Liberty means “being able to act as per the dictates of ones own mind”. While that requires the absence of the initiation of force, it cannot be defined as the absence of the initiation of force.

Keep writing in. You make sense.

Bala August 22, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Mark,

” So if a buddy of mine puts a gun to head, am I violating his rights if I take it away from him? What if he’s in my house when he does it? ”

If you are using this to puncture a huge hole in the notion that property rights are the basis of all rights, then I think this is a good beginning. Frankly, as Ayn Rand said, the basis of all rights, including the right to property, is the Right to Life. The situation you have put forward is best addressed starting from that axiom.

Great example :)

Russ August 22, 2009 at 9:44 pm

Bala wrote:

“You are dead right on a lot of things, especially Stephan’s pompous attitude and his uncivil style of writing and responding.”

I actually think that Stephan is a decent person, else he wouldn’t care so much about libertarianism. And since he cares so much, occasionally he gets a bit over-zealous. But so do I, and my zeal can make me very sarcastic, and thus uncivil, myself. That’s rather inconsistent with my Rodney King “can’t we all just get along” rant earlier. So I apologize for my excesses to Stephan. I think we’re both on the same side, when it comes right down to it. We just disagree on details.

“Keep writing in. You make sense.”

Thank you.

I would like to ask Stephan a few questions. He has been hammering on my position for a while now, so I would like him to clarify his position.

1) Are you for or against the lowest level of aggression possible in society? If against, why?

2) Do you think that if we lived in an anarcho-libertarian “polity” (for lack of a better word), that would result in the lowest level of aggression possible in society?

Stephan Kinsella August 22, 2009 at 10:48 pm

Russ:

So I apologize for my excesses to Stephan. I think we’re both on the same side, when it comes right down to it. We just disagree on details.

Of course.

I would like to ask Stephan a few questions. He has been hammering on my position for a while now, so I would like him to clarify his position.

1) Are you for or against the lowest level of aggression possible in society? If against, why?

Well, I am against aggression just as you are (presumably) against rape. All aggression is wrong as all rape is wrong. Preferably there would be no aggression, and no rape. But just as 1 rape is not as bad as 100, a small amount of aggression is less undesirable than a large amount.

2) Do you think that if we lived in an anarcho-libertarian “polity” (for lack of a better word), that would result in the lowest level of aggression possible in society?

Well I believe the most worrisome aggression is institutionalized aggression. If you achieve anarchy that means you have abolished the source of public aggression. All that is left is a relatively small degree of private crime (relatively small for a number of reasons: first, to achieve anarchy, the ideas of liberty would have to be widespread; second, society b/c of the greater free market would be immensely wealthier, thus reducing the need for crime, and increasing the means at the disposal of civilized people to spend on security to stave off whatever crime is left).

Russ August 23, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Stephan Kinsella wrote:

“”1) Are you for or against the lowest level of aggression possible in society? If against, why?”

Well, I am against aggression just as you are (presumably) against rape. All aggression is wrong as all rape is wrong. Preferably there would be no aggression, and no rape. But just as 1 rape is not as bad as 100, a small amount of aggression is less undesirable than a large amount.”

I will take your answer as an agreement that you would prefer the “lowest level of aggression possible in society”. (And yes, of course I am against rape.)

“”2) Do you think that if we lived in an anarcho-libertarian “polity” (for lack of a better word), that would result in the lowest level of aggression possible in society?

Well I believe the most worrisome aggression is institutionalized aggression. If you achieve anarchy that means you have abolished the source of public aggression. All that is left is a relatively small degree of private crime …”

Hmmm… I think this assumes that the “relatively small degree of private crime” will stay small without a State to keep it that way. Of course, some of the reasons you give below could keep the private crime small:

“(relatively small for a number of reasons: first, to achieve anarchy, the ideas of liberty would have to be widespread; second, society b/c of the greater free market would be immensely wealthier, thus reducing the need for crime, and increasing the means at the disposal of civilized people to spend on security to stave off whatever crime is left).”

But, I’m just not convinced. I could be wrong, but I think that PDAs could quite possibly cause a high level of private crime as they compete against one another. And competing PDAs might not be so good at controlling other private crime.

At any rate, I’ll interpret your answer to my second question as saying that you believe that aggression will be minimized under anarcho-libertarianism.

Let me ask one more question, if I may. Let’s say that Ruritania becomes a minimal libertarian State, is renamed Libertaria, and we all move there. Then let’s say that western Libertaria has an anarcho-libertarian revolution, breaks off from Libertaria proper, and renames itself Ancapistan. So you move to Ancapistan to enjoy the pleasures of unfettered freedom. Let’s say it turns out that I am right, and there is less actual freedom in Ancapistan than in Libertaria. Would you then change your mind and become a minarchist? In other words, are you for maximum freedom, or for abolishing the State, assuming that these two options are not completely equivalent?

Stephan Kinsella August 23, 2009 at 2:39 pm
Stephan Kinsella August 23, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Russ:

Hmmm… I think this assumes that the “relatively small degree of private crime” will stay small without a State to keep it that way.

Do states keep crime down now? No; they make it worse (think of the fallout of drug prohibition alone); and add to it with their own (think: war, jails, taxes).

But, I’m just not convinced.

So?

I could be wrong, but I think that PDAs could quite possibly cause a high level of private crime as they compete against one another.

Aaaand, then we are left with another state. How is that worse?

And competing PDAs might not be so good at controlling other private crime.

Are states?

At any rate, I’ll interpret your answer to my second question as saying that you believe that aggression will be minimized under anarcho-libertarianism.

I believe it probably would be but this is not why I’m an anarchist nor is this view essential to my being an anarchist. I’m an anarchist for exactly the reasons I said, and I apologize for being precise and clear and not maundering or using fuzzy, loosey-goosey language. I would not endorse aggression even if it was to stop other aggression. I have, you know, principles. I’m against aggression because it’s wrong. I would not rape or condone a rape, even if I thought it would stop other rapes. Sometimes you have to take a stand, y’know?

Would you then change your mind and become a minarchist? In other words, are you for maximum freedom, or for abolishing the State, assuming that these two options are not completely equivalent?

Not sure. I don’t think the hypo is specified in enough detail (nor could it be), nor that it avoids all problematic assumptions, to allow an answer. It’s easier to be guided by principle than to pick everything apart in an attempt to justify compromise and ad hocery.

Russ August 23, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Moved from the “The Irrelevance of the Impossibility of Anarcho-Libertarianism” thread.

mpolzkill wrote:

“I wonder if Russ will have a Buckleyesque response to that post! (but can one be simultaneously “crypto” AND honest?)”

Well… ah… it behooves me to say that … ah… I find your attempt to … ah… denigrate me as a … ah … crypto-statist to be quite… ah… nugatory.

Was that Buckleyesque enough for ya? :-P If not, how about this:

Now listen, you queer, you stop calling me a crypto-statist or I’ll sock you in the goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered!

(Disclaimer: That was intended as humor. I have no desire to reach through my computer screen and sock mpolzkill.)

“But Russ here has defined “statist”: one who wants to use the State to get what he wants (simple, I know).”

No, I have defined “statist” in no such way because I have never identified myself as a statist; you did that. If I were to define statism, it would be something along the lines of this: “The doctrine or policy of subordinating the individual unconditionally to a state or government with unlimited powers. Statism includes both socialism and interventionism”. (This definition gives the meaning of the word as Mises used it, and is from “Mises Made Easy”, which is available on this site.) The word “statism” has never meant simply “the belief that a government is necessary”, or else that would make Mises himself a statist. It is only used in this sense by illiterates, or by anarchists who are trying an ad hominem argument.

“I will never understand what makes most of the billions of statists with their perhaps millions of different pet systems think that they and their fellow travelers will ever take the reins.”

I really have no desire to “take the reins”. I am a computer geek. I have neither the patience, the administrative skills, nor the people skills, necessary to become an effective statesman. And I have no idea whether my “fellow travelers” will ever take the reins.

Russ August 23, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Stephan Kinsella wrote (moved from the “The Irrelevance of the Impossibility of Anarcho-Libertarianism” thread):

“Thank you. Finally. Finally. An honest faux-libertarian crypto-statist.”

See my last post to mpolzkill about your misuse of the term “statism”. This kind of obvious ad hominem argument is beneath you, Stephan.

“And you do realize the key libertarian insight is that human freedom–human rights–can only be infringed by the use of initiated force. You are aware of this view, are you not?”

Yeah. So?

“What makes you think a “small State”, one that only violates a “minimal amount of rights,” is possible?”

I don’t know that a minimal state is possible. I do know that we have had much smaller states in the past, and did just fine. I think that, in politics, the goal should be, at least in principle, reachable. I believe a minimal government is reachable, at least in principle. I’m not so sure about anarcho-capitalism. It seems utopian to me, and I’ve never thought that anything comes of utopianism.

“What makes you think this State won’t tend to be manned by people a la “the worst rise to the top” and then the inexorable logic of their position will lead them to gradually expand their power?”

I don’t know that this won’t happen. Limiting government does seem to be a constant Sisyphean struggle. And if I became convinced that ancap would work better than a minimal state, I would become an anarcho-capitalist again. I am not unalterably wedded to the idea of a state. I just think, right now, that a very small state is the best way to maximize freedom.

Stephan Kinsella August 23, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Russ:

“Thank you. Finally. Finally. An honest faux-libertarian crypto-statist.”

See my last post to mpolzkill about your misuse of the term “statism”. This kind of obvious ad hominem argument is beneath you, Stephan.

It’s not ad hominem at all. I’m an anarcho-libertarian. I criticize your pro-aggression views.

I don’t know that a minimal state is possible. I do know that we have had much smaller states in the past, and did just fine.

“Did just fine”?! Who did? What about the people whose rights were infringed by said criminal states? did they “do just fine”?

I think that, in politics, the goal should be, at least in principle, reachable. I believe a minimal government is reachable, at least in principle.

Why in the world would you believe this?

Russ August 23, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Stephan Kinsella wrote:

“Do states keep crime down now? No; they make it worse (think of the fallout of drug prohibition alone)”

But a minimal state would not prohibit voluntary acts, else it wouldn’t be a minimal state. So you’re comparing apples and oranges.

“I believe it probably would be but this is not why I’m an anarchist nor is this view essential to my being an anarchist. I’m an anarchist for exactly the reasons I said, and I apologize for being precise and clear and not maundering or using fuzzy, loosey-goosey language.”

I fail to see how saying that I am for the minimal possible amount of rights violations is “fuzzy, loosey-goosey language”. Seems clear enough to me. Other than that, when I use my “judgment” instead of “principle”, well, that may be fuzzier, but sometimes reality is not as precise and clear-cut as we would like it to be.

“I would not endorse aggression even if it was to stop other aggression. I have, you know, principles.”

One man’s principles are another man’s dogma.

“I’m against aggression because it’s wrong. I would not rape or condone a rape, even if I thought it would stop other rapes.”

I didn’t realize I was saying that a minimal state would have to rape people to protect rights. As a matter of fact, I know I didn’t say that, because that’s a just plain ludicrous thing to say. A minimal state would tax people, true (at a much lower rate than today), and it would monopolize certain functions, true (many less functions than today). But to say that a minarchist libertarian is in favor of raping people to lower the total number of rapes is just ridiculous. It’s apparently a reductio ad absurdem argument, but in reality it’s just another ad hominem attack in disguise. You don’t seem to know how not to make them.

“It’s easier to be guided by principle than to pick everything apart in an attempt to justify compromise and ad hocery.”

Yes, a pragmatic political philosophy is much more difficult to follow than a dogmatic political philosophy that does all the thinking for you with one easy-to-follow “principle”. After all, in a pragmatic philosophy, you have to exercise your own judgment, think about strategy and tactics, think about what is possible, what is likely, and what is not, think about what is right and wrong, think about when it is acceptable to commit a lesser evil to prevent a greater one, etc. How convenient it must be to slice through all that tedious judging and thinking with one simple, easy-to-follow rule! (It slices! It dices! It makes Julienne fries!) Heck, it shouldn’t be called the Zero Aggression Principle, it should be called the Zero Effort Principle!

If only it were that simple. But I believe in a sort of secular version of Original Sin. We aren’t perfect, never will be, and government is the price we must pay. We will never be allowed back in the Garden.

Russ August 23, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Stephan Kinsella wrote:

“It’s not ad hominem at all. I’m an anarcho-libertarian. I criticize your pro-aggression views.”

First, I’m not “pro-aggression” (another ad hominem; I was right, you don’t know how to stop yourself). As I’ve repeated ad nauseum, I am for the *minimal* amount of rights violations possible. Apparently, you don’t understand what the word “minimal” means, or that someone who wants to minimize something is not in favor of it.

At any rate, calling me a “statist”, when according to any sane definition of the word (like Percy Greaves’ definition) I am not even close to one, *is* an ad hominem attack.

“What about the people whose rights were infringed by said criminal states? did they “do just fine”?”

For the most part, yes. When the US government was small, not being able to choose their own PDA had not been among peoples’ most pressing problems.

Russ wrote:
“I think that, in politics, the goal should be, at least in principle, reachable. I believe a minimal government is reachable, at least in principle.”

Stephan replied:
“Why in the world would you believe this?”

Well, first, we now live under a government that monopolizes certain functions, so we know this model “works” for a sufficiently small definition of “works”. We haven’t fallen into a complete Hobbesian war of man against man, or even a case of small warlords fighting each other for power and killing off all the little people in the process. The center still holds; not all has fallen apart; at least not yet.

Second, we used to live under an even smaller government than at present, which arguably “worked” better than the one we have now, so I see no reason why the government couldn’t be made smaller and better again. It’s possible in the future because it was possible in the past.

Last, there’s no a priori reason why government officials couldn’t restrain themselves from violating rights where it’s not absolutely necessary. Granted, it would take a serious cultural shift, where voters and politicians would take freedom seriously, and probably a reorganization of government, such as returning to some serious sort of federalism instead of nationalism that’s called federalism. That may indeed be unrealistic, but it still seems less unrealistic than visions of Ancapistan. (This may be why you favor a “principled” anarcho-libertarianism, where impossibility doesn’t matter; because you know in your heart of hearts that any vision of Ancapistan is completely unrealistic.)

mpolzkill August 23, 2009 at 5:06 pm

Russ,

Ha ha, glad you caught my W.F.B. allusion.

I misspoke: you personified MY definition of “statist”. I know my definition isn’t the accepted one, but I think it’s an honest (no ad hom, an attempt to define your position) and literal reading using the word “state” (Websters: “a politically organized body of people usually occupying a definite territory”) Your definition of “statism” seems better suited to “totalitarian”.

It is possible that I’m illiterate, I don’t know. Help me correct this, kind sir:

state = state
-ist = advocate
state advocate = you.

You may not be up for it, but don’t you want your flavour of minarchists to seize control of state power? You don’t prefer the gang holding it now, to be sure. You think it’s possible for your gang to take the reins or else you wouldn’t advocate the State, right? Or you just like being “realistic”?

Couple other questions on what you just said: weren’t the abolitionists of the 19th century considered to be at least as nutty as “Utopianists”?

You also said: “But a minimal state would not prohibit voluntary acts, else it wouldn’t be a minimal state.”

This minimal state you envision; it (with Mises) would observe the right to seceed, down to the level of the individual? If so, THAT sounds downright “Utopian”.

(Thanks for the dialogue, jests & civility, very fun.)

Russ August 23, 2009 at 5:41 pm

mpolzkill wrote:

“…I know my definition isn’t the accepted one, but I think it’s an honest (no ad hom, an attempt to define your position) and literal reading…”

Fair enough. But your use of a non-standard definition for the word may lead one to mistakenly conclude that you are trying to implicitly conflate their position and totalitarianism. It seems it would be easier to just use the accepted definition, even if you think it’s not as intuitively obvious, to avoid this kind of confusion.

Russ wrote:

“But a minimal state would not prohibit voluntary acts, else it wouldn’t be a minimal state.”

mpolzkill replied:

“This minimal state you envision; it (with Mises) would observe the right to seceed, down to the level of the individual? If so, THAT sounds downright “Utopian”.”

I do not think that individuals have the right to secede or else such a minimal state would be the functional equivalent of anarcho-libertarianism, wouldn’t it? I should have said “But a minimal state would not prohibit voluntary acts *such as drug use*, else it wouldn’t be a minimal state.” If it allowed all voluntary acts, such as allowing a PDA to replace it for certain individuals, it wouldn’t be even a minimal state, would it? It would be, at best, an “ultra-minimal” state, as in Nozick.

The comprising “states” (in the sense of Ohio or Texas) of a minimalist “state” (in the sense of nation) would still have the right to secede, though.

Russ August 23, 2009 at 7:14 pm

mpolzkill,

I skipped some of your earlier post.

“You may not be up for it, but don’t you want your flavour of minarchists to seize control of state power? You don’t prefer the gang holding it now, to be sure. You think it’s possible for your gang to take the reins or else you wouldn’t advocate the State, right? Or you just like being “realistic”?”

Yes, I think it’s possible for my “gang” to take the reins. Whether this is realistic or not, I think it’s more realistic than ancap. At the very least, I think it’s possible for a gang that is more libertarian than the current gang to take the reins.

“Couple other questions on what you just said: weren’t the abolitionists of the 19th century considered to be at least as nutty as “Utopianists”?”

They were considered to be Utopians by some, yes. But I don’t see any real equivalency here. We know now that we can live quite well without slavery; in fact it was known well before 1860, since the Northwest Ordinance banned slavery in what was then the Northwest in 1785 (I believe), and those colonies (later, states) did fine. We don’t know that Ancapistan is possible; there has never been such a place. Maybe, just maybe, that is because there cannot be such a place? That is what I believe, although I must add that I would be delighted were events to reveal that I am wrong.

Othyem August 23, 2009 at 7:22 pm

@Russ: “You’re not a *pure* libertarian!” crap? Must you divide the libertarian movement into little, tiny, ineffectual splinter groups just for the sake of doctrinal purity, when the libertarian movement is ineffectual enough already?”

This isn’t, nor has it ever been, a pissing contest about who’s the purest, most fringe libertarian strictly for the hell of it. It’s about being logically consistent and recognizing the logical extensions of your beliefs. In this, a Rothbardian approach is the most coherent, in my opinion. Stephan’s right: liberty and freedom have such a vague, insignificant meaning outside of any reference to aggression, or force, or violence.

Russ, you seem to be caught up in an entirely unnecessary point. Correct me if I’m wrong, but your whole reasoning turns on whether or not anarcho-capitalism–or some variation thereof–is more detrimental to society than a minimal state, which you seem to think it is. A minimal state, according to you, is the best–or better–alternative in order to reduce the amount of suffering that would or could result in an anarchist world. Well, so what? What does that have to do with whether or not the state has a legitimate right to use force against its citizens? Your example of Ancapistan and Libertaria misses the point. What if life in an anarcho-capitalist is less free and less enjoyable than life under a minimal state? Well, first of all, it depends–less free to whom, and less enjoyable to whom? And secondly, what does it matter? Considering the fact that an anarcho-capitalist society has never really existed in full, it may or may not be what everyone thinks it’ll be. Perhaps its theoretical problems cannot be ironed out and living in anarchy is doomed to more violence, pain, and an eventual reconstruction of the state. And if that were so, then I’m sure myself and many others who elected to live in anarchy would re-enter a life under statehood. But that has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the state. And that’s the whole issue here. If I decided that living in anarchy sucked, and that living under a limited government were better, even though I would have to cede some of my rights–such as the right to exact retribution–I would be making a conscious, rational, voluntary *CHOICE* to live under it. There’s no contradiction. They’re not mutually exclusive philosophies. One can believe that government has *NO* legitimate right to force citizens to obey its laws, fund its programs, and fight its wars in principle AND STILL want to be a citizen under it, recognizing that sometimes–or many times–there are MORAL reasons to endorse it. Your moral reason is that living in anarchy would cause more pain and suffering than a minimal state, which I think is a legitimate concern and I have no problem with it. We’re all concerned with limiting the suffering of people and if it turned out that anarcho-capitalism was such a political system that did nothing but aggravate that then we would probably see its endorsement wither and die. That, however, has no bearing on whether or not it’s ethical to allow individuals to make that choice for themselves.

@Russ: “What’s wrong is that the “rugged individualists” might happen to interact with those of us who believe in a minimal government in a way such that somebody thinks their rights got violated. Then what happens? Hatfield-McCoy blood feuds? If all the anarchists were “on the outside”, that would be different.” [emphasis mine]

Okay, so if we could find a way to resolve the free-rider paradox with those anarchists who don’t want to become citizens then we’ve solved the problem, right? Well, if so, then your criticisms are misdirected. Instead of focusing on anarchism vs. minarchism, we should be channeling our mental energy into how we can find a resolution for that. Then it’ll be a win/win. I won’t go into it–this is already getting long–but how about having people in the state’s territory accept the laws either through an explicit or tacit agreement, much in the same way it’s done when traveling abroad.

Russ August 23, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Othyem wrote:

“This isn’t, nor has it ever been, a pissing contest about who’s the purest, most fringe libertarian…”

It seems that way to me, at least with Stephan. Otherwise, why the focus on “principles” rather than results? Why write an article called “The Irrelevancy of the Impossibility of Anarcho-Libertarianism”, as if results matter not a whit, as long as one’s heart is pure? Why say I am a statist when I obviously am not, any more than Mises was? Why say I am not even a libertarian when I obviously am?

“Stephan’s right: liberty and freedom have such a vague, insignificant meaning outside of any reference to aggression, or force, or violence.”

I don’t disagree with this. That is why I focus on the maximization of liberty *as* the minimization of rights violations (or aggression, as Stephan puts it), which I agree are essentially the same thing. Otherwise, it is too easy to define freedom as the freedom from want, or some other socialistic definition.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but your whole reasoning turns on whether or not anarcho-capitalism–or some variation thereof–is more detrimental to society than a minimal state, which you seem to think it is. A minimal state, according to you, is the best–or better–alternative in order to reduce the amount of suffering that would or could result in an anarchist world. Well, so what?”

I do think that anarcho-capitalism would be more detrimental to society than a minimal gov’t, but not for a fuzzy reason (at least it’s not fuzzy to me), but because I believe ancap would result in more rights violations. It has nothing to do with suffering in general, but with suffering caused by rights violations. There will always be suffering, and if I cared about minimizing suffering in general I would probably be a socialist. In fact, I think a hell of a lot of suffering is self-inflicted, and that’s a problem for the sufferer to deal with himself. Other suffering is not inflicted by anyone in particular, but simply due to bad luck or inability to compete. Voluntary charity, not socialism, can take care of this.

“What does that have to do with whether or not the state has a legitimate right to use force against its citizens?”

I don’t really care about whether everything a state does is “legitimate” or not according to some abstract, rationalistic philosophy. My political philosophy cares about minimizing rights violations, period. If a state does that, it legitimizes itself, so to speak. I am completely “results-oriented”. I care nothing for all this talk of “principles” and “legitmacy”; I care about minimizing rights violations.

“Okay, so if we could find a way to resolve the free-rider paradox with those anarchists who don’t want to become citizens then we’ve solved the problem, right? Well, if so, then your criticisms are misdirected. Instead of focusing on anarchism vs. minarchism, we should be channeling our mental energy into how we can find a resolution for that. Then it’ll be a win/win.”

But there is a way to resolve the free-rider paradox, and make sure that everybody pays their fair share. It’s called “government”! True, that won’t make a hard-core anarcho-capitalist happy, but that’s tough. Nothing will make a hard-core anarcho-capitalist happy except the impossible (if I’m right about ancap, that is), and why should I care about that?

mpolzkill August 23, 2009 at 9:04 pm

Russ!

“if I cared about minimizing suffering in general I would probably be a socialist”

!

You mean as a person who appears to eschew principles and generally has rather naive ideas about intentions and results?

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

“But there is a way to resolve the free-rider paradox, and make sure that everybody pays their fair share. It’s called “government”!”

!!

Goldman Sachs & the Pentagon agree with you 100%.

Wow, Russ…as the old joke goes: “you can’t get there from here.”

Stephan Kinsella August 23, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Russ:

“This isn’t, nor has it ever been, a pissing contest about who’s the purest, most fringe libertarian…”

It seems that way to me, at least with Stephan. Otherwise, why the focus on “principles” rather than results? Why write an article called “The Irrelevancy of the Impossibility of Anarcho-Libertarianism”, as if results matter not a whit, as long as one’s heart is pure?

Because people like you, who focus on “results” and strategy and activism respond to our arguments against the immorality of state aggression by bringing up such irrelevancies as “but you haven’t shown how anarchy will ‘work’”. If your kind didn’t bring up such disingenous charges, there would be no need to reject them.

Why say I am a statist when I obviously am not, any more than Mises was? Why say I am not even a libertarian when I obviously am?

Libertarians include both anarcho- and minarchist libertarians. Sure. But we anarcho-libertarians believe our libertarian principles imply that all crime, all aggression, is wrong–including state aggression. Thus we think you minarchists have it 98% right, but you are not quite there.

Likewise, you think we are incorrect–but the burden is obviously on you to demonstrate that state aggression is libertarian and justifiable.

I do think that anarcho-capitalism would be more detrimental to society than a minimal gov’t, but not for a fuzzy reason (at least it’s not fuzzy to me), but because I believe ancap would result in more rights violations. It has nothing to do with suffering in general, but with suffering caused by rights violations. There will always be suffering, and if I cared about minimizing suffering in general I would probably be a socialist. In fact, I think a hell of a lot of suffering is self-inflicted, and that’s a problem for the sufferer to deal with himself. Other suffering is not inflicted by anyone in particular, but simply due to bad luck or inability to compete. Voluntary charity, not socialism, can take care of this.

One way to minimize aggression is to refuse to commit or endorse it. Period.

I don’t really care about whether everything a state does is “legitimate” or not according to some abstract, rationalistic philosophy. My political philosophy cares about minimizing rights violations, period. If a state does that, it legitimizes itself, so to speak.

Even if you believe that in some hypothetical dreamworld, a minimal state could exist that would do this, you have to admit that our state, and every state that exists, and every state that has ever existed, comes nowhere near this goal — all states that exist, or have existed, or that we can expect to exist, are criminal, were criminal, and will be criminal–and unlibertarian. As such, we libertarians are against the state.

Othyem August 23, 2009 at 9:22 pm

@Russ: “But there is a way to resolve the free-rider paradox, and make sure that everybody pays their fair share. It’s called “government”! True, that won’t make a hard-core anarcho-capitalist happy, but that’s tough.”

Then that doesn’t really solve anything. You’re for limiting rights violations. Then let’s limit them all the way, i.e., insert a clause into your minarchist government requiring a form of explicit consent, and work out a formal system for punishing those who haven’t consented. Retribution wouldn’t disappear for those who’re in a state of nature.

“My political philosophy cares about minimizing rights violations, period. If a state does that, it legitimizes itself”

To you, yes. But obviously let’s not forget about those rights violations that occur through forcing others under your form of government. Also, most people consider the US as a legitimate state–in the theoretical sense–although its number of rights violations is too numerous to count. Who decides when the number of rights violations is in equilibrium? How do you quantify that, and what weight do you give each right? And further, how do you know that there will be more rights violations in an anarcho-capitalist world? I could just as easily say I favor socialism because there would be less rights violations. If I could get a large majority of people to agree with me then, according to you, it wouldn’t be wrong to establish this form of government on everyone else. All that is necessary would be to believe that less rights violations were occuring under my system–not dissimilar to what’s happening now.

“Voluntary charity, not socialism, can take care of this.”

Again, how do you know? Many people say that relying on charity to guarantee basic needs, such as medical care, food, shelter, and so forth is too risky to leave to (capricious?) altruistic human beings, and therefore forced welfare redistribution is needed to assure this doesn’t happen–a rights violation, of course. I disagree, but it’s not unlike your argument that anarcho-capitalism is too risky a system and will lead to more rights violations, therefore we need a system (i.e., government) in place to assure this doesn’t happen.

“I am completely “results-oriented”. I care nothing for all this talk of “principles” and “legitmacy”; I care about minimizing rights violations.”

Or so you think. Your minimization of rights violations is itself a principle.

Othyem August 23, 2009 at 9:41 pm

Many libertarians, including Stephan Kinsella, differ from me on this. It’s assumed that government is a priori illegitimate. Now, while I agree that government everywhere UP TO THIS POINT is illegitimate, i.e., no government YET has relied on the explicit consent of its citizenry to rule and make rules (except in those extremely rare, perhaps ceremonial, individual situations). This however doesn’t preclude the possibility that some government somewhere in the future (at least hypothetically) does so. Based just on history, though, and not even considering psychology, I don’t think this’ll ever happen; but it’s at least IMAGINABLE. We can conceive of a government that asks consent from each and every member. It’s not a logical contradiction

Othyem August 23, 2009 at 10:04 pm

I don’t know about you, but I get sick and tired hearing about how the (unjust) wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are “protecting our freedoms.” It’s obvious to anyone who cares that those wars have nothing to do with our freedom, or our liberty, or our safety, except to endanger it. But what’s to keep those in your minimal state from defining what is good for you? They can always raise the specter of further “rights violations” if we don’t do X, whatever X is. You say “there’s no a priori why government officials can’t restrain themselves.” Yeah, I agree, it’s not a logical necessity that exists in all possible worlds; but that’s beside the point. You don’t get to pick the attributes of the members of your world and the say “Wallah! See, with a few minor adjustments, the minimal state DOES work. It IS better than anarchism.” If that were so, then all anyone would have to do is shift the cultural and philosophical attitudes to where they wanted them and ipso facto there ya have it, a perfect society. I agree however than any drastic change in government will be preceded by a shift in beliefs and attitudes, and there’s nothing wrong with specifying those beliefs best suited to whatever political configuration suits your fancy. But it certainly doesn’t win any arguments.

Russ August 23, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Stephan Kinsella wrote:

“Because people like you, who focus on “results” and strategy and activism respond to our arguments against the immorality of state aggression by bringing up such irrelevancies as “but you haven’t shown how anarchy will ‘work’”. ”

Irrelevant? Not at all. If your version of libertarianism results in more of the aggression you are supposedly against, I fail to see how that can be irrelevant.

“Likewise, you think we are incorrect–but the burden is obviously on you to demonstrate that state aggression is libertarian and justifiable.”

Again, hardly. Since nothing like ancap has ever existed, the burden is “obviously” on you to prove that it could deliver something better than minarchism, at least if you want to convince those of us who are concerned about results.

“One way to minimize aggression is to refuse to commit or endorse it. Period.”

That’s really quite simplistic. If you were a pacifist you could just as well say that the fundamental political problem is not the initiation of force, but force, period. Then you would by that standard refuse to commit or endorse any force. Of course, if all decent people did so, it would only result in the slaughter or enslavement of all decent people by those who are not decent. That would result in more force, not less. It’s a self-defeating philosophy, at least if you are concerned about outcome in this world, instead of the state of your immortal soul in the next. In my opinion, you are basically doing the same thing, except not quite so obviously.

“Even if you believe that in some hypothetical dreamworld, a minimal state could exist…”

An anarcho-capitalist calling minarchism a hypothetical dreamworld?! That’s rich! We’ve certainly been closer to minarchism than we have ancap.

“…you have to admit that our state, and every state that exists, and every state that has ever existed, comes nowhere near this goal…”

But compared to what we have now, some states that have existed (earlier versions of the USA, for instance) were certainly a lot closer.

“…all states that exist, or have existed, or that we can expect to exist, are criminal, were criminal, and will be criminal-and unlibertarian.”

No, I don’t have to admit that all states that we can expect to exist will be criminal.

“As such, we libertarians are against the state.”

*sigh* As Reagan would have said, “There he goes again!” Saying that “we libertarians are against the state” implies that since I am for a (minimal) state, I am not a libertarian.

Magnus August 23, 2009 at 10:23 pm

I do think that anarcho-capitalism would be more detrimental to society than a minimal gov’t, but not for a fuzzy reason (at least it’s not fuzzy to me), but because I believe ancap would result in more rights violations. It has nothing to do with suffering in general, but with suffering caused by rights violations.

You have stated this position a couple of dozen times now, in various ways. You simply believe, hands down, that anarchism leads to more aggression in a society than people would experience under the rule of some (unspecified) state.

You have staked out this position, but not once have you told us where this belief comes from, what it rests on.

What is your reasoning that leads you to this conclusion?

What evidence do you have for this belief?

It strikes me as a belief that is impervious to reason and evidence. It appears that its origin is fear. It seems like anarchism is a situation that you have a hard time envisioning, in concrete detail, so you have filled in those missing details with a kind of Mad Max cartoonish scenario.

Why do you think that you can solve complex, long-term, dynamic, economic social problems through aggressive violence, like taking their money by force to fund state officials’ income, or requiring them to submit to their final “authority”?

Do you at least understand that the state is merely the term that is given to legitimized, regularized, institutionalized violence?

Russ August 23, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Othyem wrote:

“You’re for limiting rights violations. Then let’s limit them all the way, i.e., insert a clause into your minarchist government requiring a form of explicit consent, and work out a formal system for punishing those who haven’t consented.”

Then we have the free rider problem again. If the state can’t fund itself, it probably could not ensure the minimal level of rights violations.

“But obviously let’s not forget about those rights violations that occur through forcing others under your form of government.”

I don’t forget that. I think the total level of rights violations would still be higher in ancap. Of course, I can’t prove that; it’s just a judgment call or intuition, whatever you want to call it.

Russ wrote:
“Voluntary charity, not socialism, can take care of this.”

Otheym replied:
“Again, how do you know?”

I don’t. And what’s more, I don’t really care. Suffering caused by rights violations is my only concern, as far as my political philosophy goes.

“Your minimization of rights violations is itself a principle.”

Whatever. What I mean is that I don’t care about legitimacy or justifying rights violations or a philosophy that consists of never condoning rights violations, when those things are separated from outcome.

“It’s obvious to anyone who cares that those wars have nothing to do with our freedom, or our liberty, or our safety, except to endanger it.”

This is debatable. A lot of people who do care do not agree at all. The idea is to prevent state-sponsored terrorism (the really dangerous kind with WMDs involved) by providing a “negative example” to those states that could do so. Assuming for sake of argument that a terrorist could set off a nuke in NYC, that would involve a huge level of rights violations, that would make years of war seem relatively paltry in comparison.

“But what’s to keep those in your minimal state from defining what is good for you?”

Not a whole lot. Humans are imperfect, and “Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made”.

“I agree however than any drastic change in government will be preceded by a shift in beliefs and attitudes, and there’s nothing wrong with specifying those beliefs best suited to whatever political configuration suits your fancy. But it certainly doesn’t win any arguments.”

I think it’s better than Stephan’s strategy of completely ignoring outcomes, stubbornly saying that we must never condone aggression no matter what, and then saying that if this results in more aggression then so be it because at least this way we will be principled and have clear consciences while Rome burns. Most people do, as a matter of fact, care about outcomes. Defining a goal, and then exploring how it can be achieved, seems a lot more practical, especially when so many people have more or less the same goal.

Russ August 23, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Magnus wrote:

“Why do you think that you can solve complex, long-term, dynamic, economic social problems through aggressive violence, like taking their money by force to fund state officials’ income, or requiring them to submit to their final “authority”?”

Because that’s the way that we have solved such problems for quite some time (all of recorded history, as far as I can tell), and despite the glaring imperfections of the system, it more or less works. It would obviously (to me) work better if we eliminated the more obvious imperfections, while keeping the basic idea.

“Do you at least understand that the state is merely the term that is given to legitimized, regularized, institutionalized violence?”

In a word, yes. “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” – George Washington

“It strikes me as a belief that is impervious to reason and evidence. It appears that its origin is fear. It seems like anarchism is a situation that you have a hard time envisioning, in concrete detail, so you have filled in those missing details with a kind of Mad Max cartoonish scenario.”

Well, considering how the planet Earth has never seen anything even remotely like ancap, it is a bit hard for me to envision in concrete detail, yes. I wouldn’t say my resistance is an imperviousness to evidence, since as far as I can tell, there is no evidence regarding ancap. None whatsoever. As for an imperviousness to reason, I like to flatter myself that that is not the case, but I confess I would prefer if the arguments were more convincing, involved actual evidence, and focused on outcome. I also confess that fear has something to do with it. Truth be told, my life under our current system is not all bad. Trying ancap would be the equivalent of risking all on one roll of the dice, when you don’t know what the odds are, and don’t really even know if the number you’re betting on is one of the possible rolls.

Stephan Kinsella August 23, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Russ:

I don’t forget that. I think the total level of rights violations would still be higher in ancap. Of course, I can’t prove that; it’s just a judgment call or intuition, whatever you want to call it.

I used to think this too, when I was a newb quasi-Randroid. Then I read some more and wised up.

Othyem August 23, 2009 at 11:56 pm

@Russ: “Then we have the free rider problem again. If the state can’t fund itself, it probably could not ensure the minimal level of rights violations.”

Actually, no. I’m assuming you’re talking about a truly limited government in which it inherits its powers through the willful relinguishment of some of each individual member’s rights, and whose power does not exceed the rights of the aggregate. If the state of nature is as horrible as you imagine then there will be no shortage of people who desire to be under the state’s protection, and therefore there won’t be a shortage of funds for the state to function. I’m not against government, per se, because I believe–as do most libertarians–in the “right” to freely associate and enter into contracts with whomever one chooses, whether that be a labor union, or in this case a government. To solve this, just have, as part of becoming a citizen, a clearly defined set of laws, regulations, legal rights, tax rates, etc., and have people sign these contracts. If they should have a change of heart, they should be able to opt out. It seems to be, then, that the only problem, is finding out what to do with free-riders. Here we have a perfectly limited, minimal state defined however you want to define it, with the simple caveat that members entering must explicitly consent to give up a few of their rights for the enjoyment of the state’s services (e.g., law enforcement, etc.). Those who do not wish to enter into a contract with the government are free not to do so.

Let’s pause. If you recognize this scenario as one step slightly better than the clumsy approach of forcing everyone to follow your prescription of an ideal society by being force-fed government, then we’re making progress. In fact, that’s the whole point. You should always give people a choice, or else it’s slavery under another name. The only problem, and it’s a minor one at that, is the free-rider dilemma. What do you do with those individuals who don’t consent to be a part of the government? Surely, this can be solved, and if it can’t be entirely eradicated, then its prominence as a problem can be reduced. And in going this route, you’d have the added benefit of not violating the rights of those individuals who wouldn’t want to live under your minimal state.

Ya know, it’s not necessary to endorse anarcho-capitalism, or think that it’ll “work” for you to recognize the legitimacy in it. You say you don’t care about such things, but why the hell not? Voluntary consent is one of the most fundamental attributes of self-ownership. Sure, you have moral reasons for endorsing the state, but that has no bearing on legitimacy. If you recognize that it doesn’t, then you’re (somewhat of) an anarchist.

Gil August 24, 2009 at 2:05 am

Why, oh why, Othyem, should an immigrant arrive on U.S. shores and start telling the U.S. Federal Government they should disband because the immigrant doesn’t like this rule or that tax? Can I come onto your personal residence and tell you what I don’t like about this or that and raid your fridge while I’m at it? I haven’t signed any contracts with you.

Then again what if the common organisation in Anarchtopia are HOAs because large gated communities with full-time security guards roaming the private streets within the HOAs are the most secure form of private existence in Anarchtopia? That is to say, well you could start your own private sovereign farm and try to be self-sufficient but are quickly overrun by land pirates and because you’re in the middle of nowhere in particular, you have no one to cry to. What if the safest and most properous HOAs got to where they are through the Protestant Ethic and not marijuana-feuled hippie values? You could find yourself choosing between the lawless, crime-laden badlands or wealthy-gated HOAs city-states with prohibitive moral laws. Oops? Would things go full-circle?

Luke August 24, 2009 at 3:13 am

(I’m joining in this discussion late, so sorry if someone has already addressed this point..)

Gil,

You ask why “should an immigrant arrive on U.S. shores and start telling the U.S. Federal Government they should disband because the immigrant doesn’t like this rule or that tax? Can I come onto your personal residence and tell you what I don’t like about this or that and raid your fridge while I’m at it? I haven’t signed any contracts with you.”

But that is an invalid analogy because you ‘own’ your personal residence and the contents of your fridge and you can set the rules for visitors who wish to come into your home because you have (presumably) acquired these in a manner consistent with libertarian principles. In contrast, the U.S. government does *not* ‘own’ the entire geographical area that is currently under its jurisdiction because, as a state, it is in the institutional embodiment of the negation of libertarian principles.

That does not mean that an ‘immigrant’ who comes onto U.S. shores (as you can see the language itself is misleading as it implies the U.S. government has a legitimate claim to the territory) can start *acting* in contravention of any government rule they don’t like because many government laws are consistent with libertarian principles.

Russ August 24, 2009 at 7:14 am

Othyem wrote:

“Here we have a perfectly limited, minimal state defined however you want to define it, with the simple caveat that members entering must explicitly consent to give up a few of their rights for the enjoyment of the state’s services (e.g., law enforcement, etc.). Those who do not wish to enter into a contract with the government are free not to do so.”

I wouldn’t have a problem with that, so long as the free riders moved on along to some other country. For one, they *are* free riders, and are benefitting from the government’s protective services (even if they *say* they don’t want that) without paying their fair share. Second, the big problem I have with ancap is the idea of having multiple arbiters of last resort in a given geographical area. If those arbiters don’t play nice with each other, then you could have a big, bloody mess. And each free rider is essentially setting himself up as his own arbiter of last resort, unless he joins a PDA, in which case you still have the same problem.

“Ya know, it’s not necessary to endorse anarcho-capitalism, or think that it’ll “work” for you to recognize the legitimacy in it. You say you don’t care about such things, but why the hell not?”

In theory, ancap does sound good, I’ll admit. The only problem is, since there has never been a real ancap nation before, ancap is nothing *but* theory. Socialism sounded good in theory, too, to a lot of people, until they realized that it kills the golden goose. (Unfortunately, some people still haven’t realized this.) Anyway, if I’m right, and ancap does turn into a Mad Max nightmare, then what am I supposed to think? “Well, life sure does suck here in Ancapistan, but at least we don’t have an illegimate government, like the one we used to have that made life less sucky”? That seems a bit Panglossian to me.

Russ August 24, 2009 at 7:34 am

Stephan Kinsella wrote:

“I used to think this too, when I was a newb quasi-Randroid. Then I read some more and wised up.”

I looked at your link briefly, and as you might guess, I subscribe to the “Common view on freedom and government” in Figure 4, except in my preferred version the maximum of the curve would be closer to the origin.

I don’t think that reading more is the solution. I could read all day, and it would all be nothing but theory, since there is zero ancap experience. And you know what they say about theory and practice; in theory, theory works, but it practice it doesn’t. Besides, I have read all the major evangelism for ancap, as far as I am aware. In fact, I used to consider myself ancap. But in recent years I did some re-evaluation, and came to the conclusion that my previous belief that ancap would ‘work’ was simply due to a fervent desire that it would work. In other words, I succumbed to wishful thinking.

2nd Amendment August 24, 2009 at 7:44 am

Fuss,

“I subscribe to the “Common view on freedom and government” ”

And I susbscribe to the view of freedom VS government.

Magnus August 24, 2009 at 7:46 am

The only problem is, since there has never been a real ancap nation before, ancap is nothing *but* theory.

Anarchy is all around us. It exists in every voluntary interaction you see every day. Anarchy is the defining characteristic of 95% of every situation and relationship in your life.

You are clinging to this fantasy that, by bullying people and stealing things in the 5% of life that is controlled by statist (i.e., violent) relationships, the state is somehow keeping the other 95% of life from turning into Mad Max.

Anarchy never goes away. It is a natural and inevitable result of the fact that humans are independent economic actors, and therefore capable of cooperating or competing with each other, as they see fit. Anarchy is the way human society works, even when one gang becomes so large that it suppresses most of the rival gangs and gets to call itself a “government.”

What you call the government is really just another gang. They are not official. They are not superior. They are just a mafia organization that has grown to be larger than other mafia organizations.

A more anarchic society that most Americans are somewhat familiar with is the American frontier, which eventually became limited to what we call the Old West. Several generations of Hollywood propaganda has distorted most people’s understanding of the American frontier, but for a brief time, people got away from the gangsters and the banksters and the government mob and its cronies.

If you do real research on it, you’ll find that it was far from a crazy, gun-slinging murder-fest. It was tremendous economic growth, and virtually no crime.

http://mises.org/journals/jls/3_1/3_1_2.pdf

http://mises.org/article.aspx?Id=1449

Compare the crime rate of the American frontier, over its 300-year history, to, for example, the so-called Civil War, which was a 100% government operation that killed 600,000 people.

mpolzkill August 24, 2009 at 8:20 am

Russ,

It obviously takes more than reading, it appears that most words just bounce right off you. EVERYTHING that works is “anarchy”. The market is “anarchy”, you know, people behaving voluntarily to each others agreed mutual benefit. We can’t ever get too much of that. It works SO well in fact, that it is still able to keep us all aloft despite the ever growing and now mind-bendingly massive parasitical scam/incredibly naive complex of wishful thinking called “government”.

“Evangelism”

?!

And now you again talk of how socialism sounds good (THAT old saw!). I just watched the Quentin Tarantino fantasy which consists primarily of scenes where American and British agents behind German lines have lengthy conversations with Nazis and slowly give away clues of their non-Hun-ship. Something made me think of this, ha ha.

mpolzkill August 24, 2009 at 8:29 am

Oops, I hadn’t realized that Brother Magnus had already given you a bit of the same Gospel.

Russ August 24, 2009 at 9:12 am

“And now you again talk of how socialism sounds good (THAT old saw!).”

My point was the a lot of otherwise intelligent people used to think that socialism sounds good.

I don’t really think it sounds that good, because I’m more concerned with having other people leave me alone than with guaranteed economic security (which is a false guarantee anyway). The only part of the socialist sales pitch that ever appealed to me was the part about nobody going hungry, or never having to live homeless out in the bitter cold, etc. But then I realized that capitalism is much more likely to solve these problems than socialism. And I realized that back in the 9th grade, when my social studies teacher (I actually had a good one) taught us what socialism is in theory, and what it is in practice, and how the theory and practice diverge.

Russ August 24, 2009 at 10:08 am

Brother Magnus wrote:

“Anarchy is all around us….”

Brother mpolzkill wrote:

“The market is “anarchy”…”

“Oops, I hadn’t realized that Brother Magnus had already given you a bit of the same Gospel.”

Not a problem. I’ll address both together.

The standard answer to this is, of course, that although the market is unplanned, the market is *not* anarchy, because the market depends upon the framework of law and order that the government provides, and could not function without said framework. Let’s say that government goes bye bye tomorrow. It might prove hard to conduct day to day business when the people who are no longer getting their welfare checks all decide to riot, and you can no longer get to your place of business. If your place of business were burning down in the riot, that could also put a crimp in your plans. Or if union workers who can no longer use the government to extort businesses decide to destroy your physical plant, that could affect the bottom line. Riots are bad for business. So are other things, like thieves, robbers, and vast hordes of rampaging Canadians (*grin*). That’s why we have government. Among its legitimate functions is protecting us from such unpleasantnesses.

Of course, you could respond that in ancap, PDAs will fill the legitimate role of government, without that nasty chemical after-taste. And that very well might be. Or it very well might not be. We have no way of knowing. All we do know is that no such system has ever evolved naturally, despite disputable claims that the early American West, or Viking Iceland, or tribal Ireland, were close. At any rate, I have no desire to live like a Viking or Irish tribesman, and the early American West evolved into the modern government-based American West as it grew, so I don’t think those models are appropriate for an ancap that could work in a hi-tech, high population density modern society.

The model I think is appropriate is the model that we currently live under, although of course it’s a “fixer-upper”. I guess it’s my conservative side that thinks that completely tearing down the framework of our society and rebuilding it from scratch, based on a political / philosophical system, might be a bit imprudent. The last time that was tried, based on the philosophy of Messrs Marx and Engels, it didn’t work out so well, if memory serves.

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