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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10479/why-objectivists-hate-anarchy/

Why Objectivists Hate Anarchy

August 17, 2009 by

Given the portrayal of an anarchist utopia (Galt’s Gulch) in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged–given the unavoidable conclusion of anarchy given the pro-individual, pro-rights, anti-state views Rand shared with libertarians–it is a bit mystifying why so many Objectivists despise anarchy. Okay, granted, Rand hated it, so many Objectivists feel compelled not to question it–but why would Rand be so hostile to it? Her own novel portrays anarchy positively.

I think I have it figured out. First, note the extreme, almost Galambos-like importance they attach to intellectual property. For example, she actually wrote: “patents are the heart and core of property rights.” I kid you not. (See Rand and Marx.) One pro-IP Objectivist even equates humans-as-inventors to “gods” (Inventors are Like Unto …. GODS…..). (The Randians’ deification of intellectual creation reminds of Galambos, who believed that man has “primary” property rights in his thoughts and ideas, and secondary property rights in tangible goods; see Against Intellectual Property.)

Objectivists are also astute enough to realize that you can’t have IP without a state–hell, you can’t have it without legislation. Thus, not only are Objectivists not opposed to a state, they are not opposed to its use of legislation as a means of “making” law (see Regret: The Glory of State Law).

So: patents and IP are the most important of all rights. And you can’t have IP in anarchy, since IP comes from artificial edict by the legislature of a state. So, we must have a state. QED.


mpolzkill August 30, 2009 at 9:16 am


“system of anarchy”

I don’t think you’re grasping what anarchy means.

“might rather than right….not slip down the slippery slope of tyranny”

Nor tyranny. Citizens must perceive authority to be legitimate. Tyranny can only exists while a critical number of them are somehow convinced that it is valid. It took about 200 years here in America and myriad programs, wars and compulsory state schooling among other things to bring us to a sort of tyranny-by-nanny. You are really giving the hard work of thousands of tyrants over the course of centuries short shrift with your cartoonish theory about the slippery slope.

“immoral choice of a person who is consistently evading reality”

I AM sorry; you aren’t a libertarian sect, these are the words of someone from a religious sect. First you demonstrate a tenuous grip on reality and then you say we are immoral for evading your vision of it.

“‘state’ when you should be using’government’”

No, “state” says it and it bugs you. That’s good, it tells me that the benign word “government” is one of your legitimizers.

“alternative”, I do not mean an alternative government but an alternative set of people to take over the reins of government.

(Everyone thinks they can take the reins and then it’s all going to be hunky dory, and WE don’t accept reality) I do appreciate your attempt to answer my other question. You must realize that if I question a Muslim a lazy one may tell me to go read the Koran, a Scientologist will have me after L. Ron, I don’t have that much time, YOU’VE got to sell this thing (or not, maybe I’m not up to snuff you can already tell). So again, please forgive my ignorance: this alternative government which will never slip down the slope because you all are so moral and posses such a better grasp on reality than the other 99.999% of humanity today, will it have a definte territory, and if I live in said territory can I completely ignore you even if I’m being “immoral”. Let’s say if I give my brother-in-law a no interest loan or if I file share some Metallica with him? Will I have to get a lecture for the one and receive a fine for the other?

I have so many more questions and comments on your last posts, but there’s already a lot on the plate. Thank you for your answers, you are definitely interesting.

mpolzkill August 30, 2009 at 9:31 am

* possess

Oops, I didn’t see that SK had already countered. I wanted to go somewhere else anyway, Bala: yours is a philosophy that is compatible with libertarianism right? In what ways can we (anarchists and objectivists) join forces to convince more people that taking responsibility for ones’ self is the answer for moving towards a better world. Because we agree on that, right?

Michael A. Clem August 30, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Anarchist are like Robin Hood who kept fighting Prince John because he wasn’t the illegitimate ruler but King Richard was. Hence Anarchists ought to have no problem with ‘geographic monopolies’ except the governments are illegitimate whilst private landowners are legitimate.
Actually, from a libertarian perspective, King Richard is no more legitimate than Prince John–by what right was he king over England?–he was just a kinder, gentler ruler than John.
More to the point is your misunderstanding of law. A private property owner certainly has rights over his property, but that still does not give him the right to deny the rights of other people, even when on his property. Libertarianism implies that only enough defensive force to stop an initiation of force is justified. If you use too much force for the situation, you cross the boundary from defensive force to initiating (new) force. And retaliatory force requires a public process to justify it and make other people aware of it.
Thus, a private property owner might have absolute rights in his property, but that doesn’t justify him playing judge, jury, and executioner for any little rule or infraction that he chooses. A private geographic monopoly is not equivalent to a government.

Gil August 30, 2009 at 7:09 pm

If a private landowner isn’t the sovereign landowner then it’s back to Minarchism especially if the landowner has to justify his actions to everyone else. On the other hand, there no rule for how much reliatory is necessarily too much lest an attacker claims self-defence because the victim was too good at defending himself.

Law comes from power held by someone – it’s either going to public or private. Without power it’s all just moral relativism, someone eventually has to the foot and as say “it’s my land and my rules”.

Michael A. Clem August 30, 2009 at 7:25 pm

MichaelM’s post was quite interesting, especially the part about “arbitrary defensive force”. One wonders what this could be, since, as I mentioned above in response to Gil, “Libertarianism implies that only enough defensive force to stop an initiation of force is justified. If you use too much force for the situation, you cross the boundary from defensive force to initiating (new) force.” Either you are using defensive force or you are not–where does the arbitrariness come in?
I’ve tried to explain how common or customary law in conjunction with economic incentives would do a better job of “Objectivising” or standardizing law than a monopoly government would. However, I’ve yet to see Objectivists explain how a monopolistic government would go about establishing Objective Law–is it simply a matter of putting the “right” people in office, or is there some other, more effective way of establishing an Objective government?

Michael A. Clem August 30, 2009 at 8:04 pm

Gil, you read, but you still do not understand. If a store owner catches a young boy stealing a candy bar, is he justified in cutting the boy’s hand off? Libertarianism suggests that no, he would not be justified–the penalty is too harsh for the crime committed. To put it into simpler terms for you, two wrongs don’t make a right. Appropriate defensive force is allowed, and no more. You want to make private ownership out to be some kind of absurdist position in order to justify minarchism, but the absurdist position is just as wrong as the minarchist position.
Third party arbitration and mediation is a long-established means of sorting out differences, and while it may be considered a “justification” to other people in society, libertarianism doesn’t necessarily imply atomism–even a libertarian society would still be a society of people who have to live together. Ostracism and peer pressure are effective tools of civil society to help keep people in line, even “sovereign” property owners, without resorting to coercive, authoritarian rules via minarchism.

Michael A. Clem August 30, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Law comes from power held by someone
I don’t believe that, even though it is pretty much the traditional view. No, law is what society accepts as the rules of society. Yes I’m using the “collectivist” concept of society, here, but the important part is that arbitrary rules set up by a monopolistic, coercive agency cannot truly be considered Law. People have to accept these rules as useful and necessary for the smooth functioning of society. And this is why an anarchist society can function–because of the true nature of law and legal systems, instead of the perverted and distorted version created by governments. Common and customary law require no coercive power to function. Merchant Law worked (and still works today) because the merchants willingly accepted it, not because some organization forced them to accept it.
Create arbitrary laws and force people to accept them, and you create backlash, discontent, unintended consequences, and chaos. Create reasonable laws, and there’s little need to force people to accept them–that’s what most people want in order to maintain a civil society.

Gil August 31, 2009 at 6:59 am

Meh. As I implied private landownership would go some way into solving the moral relativism of “well that’s just your view” as in “it’s my land and therefore my view makes right”. Besides creating laws and having the power to properly enforce laws creates acceptance. Hence Muslim countries have no problems enforcing ‘honour’ on their women.

“Can a store owner lop off some shoplifting kid’s hands?”

Who knows, if the custom in land does indeed do that because the few kids who are caught end up as scary deterrent to other would-be shoplifters then maybe yes. But if it isn’t the custom elsewhere then no.

mpolzkill August 31, 2009 at 8:54 am

Gil said: “creating laws and having the power to properly enforce laws creates acceptance.”

Again, behold the authoritarian mind of the conservative. It’s a huge mistake to think that because one of them is interested in Austrian economics or calls himself a “minarchist” that he is an ally. The over-riding process of their minds: other people are basically naughty children who must be kept in line at all times by conservatives. Only conservatives have somehow been mystically granted superior wisdom and the righteous power to mete out justice and order. The very law derives from their superior minds. What they are actually are representatives or sychophants of the Ancien Regime, forever worshiping authority and trying to retain dominance. Their main tool of course is central banking and you can see “Gil” typically defend the banksters here:


“creating laws and having the power to properly enforce laws creates acceptance.” – anonymous authoritarian

“Life, faculties, production—in other words, individuality, liberty, property—this is man…[they] do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.” Frederic Bastiat

Always remember which side of the assembly Bastiat sat on.

Gil August 31, 2009 at 10:26 am

Who likes the non-sequitors then mpolzkill? It’s akin to you saying, “since you don’t like deflation you must love inflation, in fact you really love hyperinflation and are both engaged to be married”. It’s a fact of life that certain harsh regime have the obedience of it members and even acceptance of some of the members. Or that certain customs and traditions of certain cultures are ancient and precede statutory laws but are nonetheless still barbaric and deserved to be annulled with statutory law. Or you because you won’t accept our magical anarchist you views (or minarchist views either) then you justify all regimes now matter how extreme.

Once upon a time a Liberal had to get robbed or bashed before converting to Conservatism, now it seems Libertarianism is doing that job.

mpolzkill August 31, 2009 at 11:04 am

Gil, I can barely make out what you’re saying.

The connotation you, most dictionaries and most others derive from the word “authoritarian” is derived from somewhere outside the root words.

authority = persons in command (command = mastery)
-arian = believer, advocate
believer in authority = Gil

What kind of consumer doesn’t like deflation? Who said anything about hyper-inflation?

We’re all getting bashed over the head by the State. The State’s insane destruction of our economy will create far more freelance criminals. Sure, some “liberals” may become conservatives after being mugged. It would take one pathetically weak libertarian who can’t take care of himself and who then runs into the arms of those who helped create his mugger.

I don’t accept your magical authoritarian views, your Positivist Law views. Throughout history your views lead to variations of where we are today and where we’re headed further. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, perhaps you don’t wittingly justify the worst regimes; you, along with millions of others do abet them though, at least unwittingly.

TokyoTom September 21, 2011 at 4:42 am

So: limited liability corporations are the most important of all capitalist organizations.

And you can’t have corporations in anarchy, since corporations (and their essential characteristics like limited liability of shareholders) come from artificial edicts by the legislature of a state.

So, we must have a state.


(Just playing.)


Stephan Kinsella September 21, 2011 at 11:46 am

I know it bugs you that anti-state libertarians can call you on the immorality of your supporting the state, but that does not mean we all do. If you feel guilty for supporting institutionalized murder and aggression, don’t blame those of us who don’t. And merely pointing out that there would naturally be limited liability in a private society, for passive investors who do not cause the torts committed by others, is not a pro-state position.

terrymac September 30, 2011 at 9:12 am

Stephan, I don’t think this is a fair argument. The case against anarchy, as I have heard it from many Objectivists, seems to be their belief that there must be One True Objective Law To Bind Them All.

Under anarchy, law would be too messy, too non-Objective, since it would not descend from the Divine Brain of Ayn Rand via her Objective Prophets.

Without One Divine Objectivist Arbiter, all would be chaos – or so the theory goes, as told to me by many Objectivists.

As for me, I’m more partial to the observation of John Powelson (History of Wealth and Poverty) that polycentric systems tend toward more freedom than hierarchical systems; the latter lead to the State deciding its own cases, which is to say, exempting itself from the law via the device of “sovereign immunity.”

Fraxin November 9, 2011 at 7:22 am

Galt’s gulch was not an anarchist’s paradise by any means. In the book Atlas Shrugged, Rand does not give a clear indication of the chronology of its entrants, but gives many hints.

It was founded by a banker (‘Midas’ Mulligan) and two of its most important occupants were a legislator (Judge Naragansett) and a philosopher (Hugh Akston). In the book, these three men seem to be the de facto organisers, but not rulers. The unwritten story (although it is hinted at) is that they define a loose constitution based on the central philosophy of individual rights, of morality based on virtues and the open trade of values.

This is neither anarchy nor statism. This is the primacy of the individual and of his/her rights over all other concerns with the rule of law to enforce it. It is limited government, but it IS government – for the people, by the people. Note also that this does not require a democratic process, although that, too, is hinted at. A state requires a voting process (hopefully free and fair), but voting does not require a state as there need be no ‘parties’ to be ‘in power’.

Voting in this case merely assists in appointing those who (are paid to) enforce the rights of every individual, namely the police and courts, which are then directly accountable to every individual – both the voter AND those they serve to protect as they are one and the same. Paying a policeman, a judge, a garbage collector or a doctor in Galt’s Gulch is done by trade alone. No taxes are levied as none are required.

I cannot see how there is an either/or argument here. I feel that it is simply the case that both anarchists and statists want to either claim Rand as their own or discredit her without conceding that she has outlined a clear alternative to both points of view.

Stephan Kinsella November 9, 2011 at 8:22 am

Narragansett was a judge, not a legislator. In any case there is no clear suggestion that there are police or a state apparatus, in galt’s gulch.

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