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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4350/the-nature-of-man-and-his-government/

The Nature of Man and His Government

November 18, 2005 by

Here is Robert LeFevre’s classic argument for a purely free society, the essay that made him a leading, if controversial, spokesman for the libertarian position on government and society in the 2nd half of the twentieth century. He argues that government is in its essence a violation of rights, one that makes life brutal, poor, and short. He demonstrates that no government anywhere has lived up to its basic promises, and calls on all people to contribute to building a new kind of freedom. FULL ARTICLE


Jim Bradley November 18, 2005 at 12:05 pm

The problem is not only the vision, but the practical implementation. There are a couple of main issues (1) Not all anti-social or criminal actions are reducable to private property violations so a shared non-private property morality will be necessary (2) The difficult problems of common property such as land usage so some non-governmental but enforceable system of shared land use (easements, roads, similar non-land issues) must be implemented (3) the near intractable (perhaps requiring violent) defense of a new “state” in which the predator class is neutralized — hence the need also for a common defense (4) The disbursion of power so that this idyllic state cannot be reconverted back to an aggressive government, but still retain huge powers of defense (enough to deter nuclear war and other aggressive states).

It’s likely that every major criminal aggression (those that will continue to aggress or those that will not honor (for example) their covenant to feed their children) will of necessity devolve into the threat of or actual use of force. Volunteer police will be required with some judicial system of decision. Not saying it’s impossible in theory, but in practice … no way.

The voluminous theorizing of many libertarians covers a lot of the same ground (the vision) but is short on practical implementation. For instance, HOW would any libertarian group actually (even if possible) implement a phase-out of the Federal Reserve? Rothbard’s “solution” would certainly collapse the entire world economy and bring on the thing he said he most disliked: dictatorship.

Paul Edwards November 18, 2005 at 1:05 pm

You caught my attention with this one Jim: “Rothbard’s “solution” would certainly collapse the entire world economy and bring on the thing he said he most disliked: dictatorship.” I assume I know what Rothbard solution you are talking about, so…

Can you give us a taste of how you come to that conclusion? Or can you point me to an online article that substantiates such a claim and refutes Rothbard’s analysis. I’d like to take a crack at dissecting it because if it is correct, it will be a great revelation to me and i suspect many Austrians.

My belief is that there can be nothing about going back to honest money that could assist dictatorships. It would provide nothing but an increase in world economic stability, starting with the US. The case, in fact is that inflated fiat money is what allows the power addicts of all stripes a subtle way of further fleecing their unsuspecting public. They can do this without increasing taxes, thereby providing further financing of their own unethical pursuits without disturbing the unconsciousness of the duped.

Curt Howland November 18, 2005 at 1:07 pm

Mr. Bradley,

(1), can you give me an example of a criminal action that does not involve private property?

(2), what possible “shared” property cannot have a contract? You seem to think that easements, roads and “similar” are “non-land issues”. Yet, they are specifically land issues.

(3), did you entirely miss the section on voluntary armed defense? That someone actually in the act of defending requires no coercive motivation to do so?

(4), the perfect disbursement of power is of course that no one has coercive power over anyone else.

Lastly, you ask for “a plan”. I gather you have not been reading much on Mises.org, or you would have seen plans everywhere. To put it politely, to abolish the Federal Reserve is the ultimate in simplicity: Remove their grant of monopoly. Remove the coercive power that forces their paper to be accepted, at the same time that the coercive power that restricts competition is repealed. How very simple, direct, and instantaneous. It also coerces no one, everyone who wants to is free to continue to use FRNs. There is just no more lying.

Every point you make other than number 1 is answered. Can you elaborate on number 1 so that I (or someone else) can disprove that one too?

MLS November 18, 2005 at 1:44 pm


Anything that the government does can be and is done by private enterprise. Luckily, the government pretty much buys most services directly from the market place anyway. The real test is to just allow markets to work freely from any government whatsoever. Should a government arise naturally from the market place (without pathetic attempts to subvert it by “We the people” – like the Constitution) – then it can be justified. I seriously doubt such a thing would occur. The only type of government that can occur naturally under free market conditions are small communities that dictate in advance what the rules are. These rules will most certainly have the option of leaving – something that is not easily possible in what we today call “civilized nations”.

Any criminal acts can be reduced to violations of property rights – whether they be physical or virtual.

Jim Bradley November 18, 2005 at 3:59 pm

Paul – The “Rothbard solution” abruptly changes the rules would remove the ability of banks to respond to any increase of depositor withdrawals and would mean a catastrophic collapse of the banking system. All economic agents currenly rely on (unfortunately excess) liquidity created a bracketed price from the banking system. The Fed is the only entity that can create reserve liquidity.

Curt – (1) building nukes on your property, seducing underage kids, selling crack, violating intellectual property laws, speed limits, lying under oath, being forced to pay for the care of your formerly neglected children, tricking foolish people into commiting crimes, etc., etc. (2) It’s not the contract, Curt, but the impossibility of enforcing just laws in a pure private property world: for instance, a wealthly land owner buys up the surrounding areas to your house and then informs you not to cross his land (or a harder case: you buy land in a landlocked area then have no ability to get to it), a landowner redirecting rivers on his land so they no longer cross yours, eminent domain issues (the owner won’t sell his dilapidated house for even $1 billion to put that freeway through …), airplane flight rules, etc. (3) You’re going to create this state without massive violence (as it surely will be attacked by the current statist bunch) … where? And how would you defend it? (4) There is no “perfect disbursement of power” and private property is critically important, so important it shouldn’t be argued by remaining in the realm of fantasy. And please, it’s so tiring to hear I “haven’t read much” on Mises.org.

MLS – Assertions that are unfounded. Clearly what government does IS unique else it wouldn’t be sought after: it has a monopoly on the use of force and that is not something that “business does” in any society except anarchist (which devolves into pure power rather than justice). Criminal acts are frequently not devolved to property rights. You say “press that button”. Someone else does it. Where’s the “property right”?

The criticism is comprehensive: (1) there are enough exceptions to warrant the necessity of extra-private property law, (2) No plan for this new state is forthcoming, instead massively repetivive private property “worlds” are created to no practical effect (3) Not only does an apriori economic theory (true) inform morality (false), but that morality (false) is used in the revision of history (false), which leads to a libertarian mythology (false).

You can see this operation on lewrockwell.com where various views are posted as “supporting” the libertarian view (like the articles referenced on lewrockwell.com from Scott Ritter caught twice in an internet sting going after underage girls — Gee, think he might be an unreliable security risk that could be turned?) But hey, no problem — as long as Scott understands that he owes no obligation to underage girls to protect their innocence …

Roy W. Wright November 18, 2005 at 4:15 pm

building nukes on your property,

Not criminal, if it’s truly your property and you’re not under any contract to the contrary. And of course, as long as you aren’t exposing anyone to dangerous radiation or other health hazards in the process.

seducing underage kids,

Define your terms. I assume that, by “underage,” you don’t mean the arbitrary lower limit of 18 years.

selling crack,

Certainly not criminal. I have a feeling that you take “criminal” to mean anything to which the current state objects.

violating intellectual property laws

Again, state prohibition of a behavior does not make it criminal in the sense that Curt had in mind. Besides, if you believe in “intellectual property,” then obviously this is a violation of property.

speed limits,

Violates the property rights of whoever owns the road, if it’s privately owned and such limits are in place. If not, speeding is not criminal.

lying under oath, being forced to pay for the care of your formerly neglected children,

These have some merit to them, perhaps. Maybe others can shed some light on them.

tricking foolish people into commiting crimes,

Could you be more specific?

Roy W. Wright November 18, 2005 at 4:20 pm

I do agree, though, that those who support freedom tend to be big on the specifics of what freedom entails, and very lacking in a realistic plan to get there.

Paul Edwards November 18, 2005 at 4:38 pm

I think this article makes an outstanding point with the following observations about fear and government:

“There is only one thing which causes man to look for and to organize a tool which is an instrument of compulsion and prohibition. That thing is fear.

“Men look to government to protect them because they fear. And virtually without exception, everything that human beings fear becomes a project for government.”

FDR said it very well then, when he told the nation “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”. He just didn’t quite make it plain why this was so true. After all, it was FDR himself who was to be the beneficiary of all this fear and that it would be he who would see to it that this fear would bring on a great deal more suffering for the nation. He was a very popular president though wasn’t he?

Jim Bradley November 18, 2005 at 4:41 pm

Roy – it’s worse than that … this is a seriously insufficient defense of property rights because it deals in the realm of fantasy.

Building nukes — preventing conferred risk is a big, big problem for any pure property right society. No pre-event legislation could stop a person unless the society is structure much more like ours is today.

Underage kids — choose an age where you feel this activity would be inappropriate.

Selling crack — there are some things which are so socially destructive they should be outlawed or restricted in use. Consider a substance that makes people into murderous lunatics that take other people’s lives maybe 1% of the time it’s taken. Is that outlawable?

Roads — The road issues would likely be solved by advance agreement that an owner would cede his land at a fair price should he be approached by the “government” of the pure-private property society. That’s not far from what we recently had (noting the court case whose name I forget just changed the definition of “public purpose” to include monetary gain). That makes another point: a libertarian society can only be supported by people willing to exercise support of it, including violent support. Fundamentally the right to justice is enforced by the majority willing to hold those in authority to the standard. Clearly no society can guarantee the majority won’t fall away, hence no “libertarian” society guarantees rights any better than what we have now …

Lying under oath, etc. A smarter guy can come up with a lot more examples. I think the broader point is that we have a fantastic society, our framing fathers were tremendously visionary, and what we need to do is to get practical and roll back the state instead of indulging in the fantasy of making up alternate universes.

Tricking people into commiting crimes — choose an example you feel would fit (does Charles Mansen have any culpability? Don’t think that would stick in a pure-private property society …).

Paul Edwards November 18, 2005 at 4:59 pm

On second thought, i don’t think it will be possible to debate this one as i think we are too far apart on our fundamental views on banking. But thank-you for giving me an idea of what you’re thinking.

A realistic plan is missing, i agree. But i don’t know if we can avoid that. I’m thinking that it may be like the collapse of the USSR. One day you think it’s just another day, the next you hear that people are knocking down a wall somewhere. Maybe we’ll both be dead first. In the long run we all are anyways, i once read.

Right now, the benefits of liberty are lost on most of the freest people on the planet. If that does not change, we have little prospect of working any plan. On the other hand, if it does change, perhaps a plan isn’t so necessary.

Roy W. Wright November 18, 2005 at 5:14 pm

No pre-event legislation could stop a person unless the society is structure much more like ours is today.

In my opinion, if someone in our current society had the knowledge, intelligence, and desire (an unlikely combination) to build atomic bombs on their own property, they most likely could get away with it about as easily as if it weren’t illegal. The existence of nuclear weapons is not harmful in itself, and the prospect of their being built and used by a private party is hardly enough to justify invasive policing or whatever means you’d propose.

Underage kids — choose an age where you feel this activity would be inappropriate.

Any level of maturity at which the children are not entirely self-owned. There is no uniform minimum age for such a concept; one 14-year-old could be competent to make decisions (even sexual) that another 19-year-old may not.

Consider a substance that makes people into murderous lunatics that take other people’s lives maybe 1% of the time it’s taken. Is that outlawable?

Of course not.

Roy W. Wright November 18, 2005 at 5:20 pm

On second thought, i don’t think it will be possible to debate this one as i think we are too far apart on our fundamental views on banking. But thank-you for giving me an idea of what you’re thinking.

Let me echo Paul’s sentiments. I think we’re too far apart on our views of criminality, Jim. In my view, the potential for harm (not including an attempt or a stated intention) does not constitute a crime.

Jim Bradley November 18, 2005 at 5:25 pm

Paul — we do have the option to defend private property but not necessarily from a strictly libertarian point of view (for instance it can be defended from a strict constitutional constructionist point of view like Ron Paul).

In regards to Rothbard’s plan: cross collateral cascading defaults render it impossible. I think a better plan is to fight for a repeal of legal tender laws and capital gains laws for any currency transactions so any item that can be collateral for money will automatically become a shelter for inflation, but not for profits. Taxes will be paid in dollars (and if dollars depreciate, there’s no capital gains to be paid in the translation). Gold will stand or fall on it’s own. That’s workable and it doesn’t destroy the current banking system, but realistically it has zero chance of being implemented.

A more cunning solution would retain the benefits of using currency while the inflation potential is emasculated (perhaps holding savings in an international non-taxable offshore accounts collateralized by a wide range of assets). The problem is also that the politically connected rich benefit from the inflationary scheme at the expense of others, reducing support for its change, and increasing the likelihood that they will change the laws to devalue the new financial assets for the benefit of the status-quo. So, it’s likely better to find a way to ensure “mutual financial destruction” (like the bankers have done) and then implement…

It may be that the mismanagement of the U.S. balance sheet will do that by itself…

Curt Howland November 18, 2005 at 5:27 pm

Mr. Bradley,

It’s not the contract, Curt, but the impossibility of enforcing just laws in a pure private property world

Well, that pretty much sums it up. You believe that coercive prior restraint on peoples actions can be “just”.

With a disagreement as fundamental as this, it is clear that we will not be able to agree on anything since you can always dismiss my presentation of liberty as “unjust”.

Jim Bradley November 18, 2005 at 5:46 pm

Roy and Paul (Curt) — There is no guarantee that libertarianism will increase the likelihood of the majority to hold the line against government depredation, so consequently the “pure private property” universe remains an exercise in fantasy.

Clearly building atomic weaponry on one’s private property confers an enormous risk to other people in the area especially since aggregating the purified fissionable materials can cause the mass to go critical without any detoning device … and “invasive policing” isn’t allowed (theoretically) in our society unless there’s a reasonable cause, and such an act would be a reasonable cause. Where’s the practical workable balance? Such complexities are simply dismissed as if they have no weight and we’re back to our favorite fantasy.

The question about underage seduction becomes a debate as to whether a 14 Yr old runaway (for example if convinced by a 30 Yr old) has truly has the power to be a self-owner. Just because there’s no adequate rule covering all circumstances and development patterns doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to make NO rule.

Sorry guys. I’ve got to agree that we are fundamentally at odds. I support Constitutional government with the (hopefully moral) majority holding the government in check and with limits as to the action of the majority against individuals. I believe in this country, not a fantasy future with no possible transition.

Jim Bradley November 18, 2005 at 5:51 pm

Forgot to mention, I was a libertarian … the criticism of libertarianism doesn’t come easy.

Curt Howland November 18, 2005 at 7:15 pm

Clearly building atomic weaponry on one’s private property confers an enormous risk to other people

No, it does not. The mere existence of those components in that configuration is nothing. Might as well never build a dam because “clearly” an enormous risk to those down stream is created. Or never fly an airplane, because an enormous risk to those underneath its flight path is created.

It’s called “liability”, and is dealt with very well by private insurance every day. Just because it’s a nuclear bomb doesn’t mean a damned thing, it’s still just a thing.

And *that* is why your pro-active legislation cannot be fair: It creates a situation of some things being treated differently than other things, or it is so minute in its detail that there is no latitude for different situations.

Which, by the way, was well covered in the article.

averros November 18, 2005 at 8:13 pm

The right to self-defense includes the right to preemptive self-defense.

When you see a bandit taking aim at you you are perfectly justified in pulling out your gun snd killing him before he shoots you.

The same apllies to people doing things which pose risks of immediate grave harm to others, like building their own nukes or brewing contagious bacteria.

Of course, each use of preemptive force makes the user of such force liable and presumed guilty of aggression unless he can prove that such use of force was necessary, and was minimal sufficient to protect his life and property.

And the use of force to prevent harm is not justified if harm is non-existent or highly improbable – i.e. one does not expose neighours to harm if he works with highly dangerous bacteria in his lab and the lab has appropriate safety equipment, procedures and controls. Same goes for nuclear devices and owning guns.

I would say that it is a good criterion to say that an activity which is insurable for liability (and insured or self-insured) with a policy which covers liability in full, is not infringing on rights of others. Any uninsurable for liability activity or lack of appropriate insurance is grounds for preemptive defense proportional to the possible harm.

Now, the market and actuarial calculations of the insurance/protection companies will make unjustifably risky to others activities prohibitively expensive. No need for any specific laws barring specific activities; and the safety, proficiency, and track record of the party engaged in such activities are automatically taken into account.

And, by the way, this makes nuclear weapons out of reach of anyone but large consortiums of defensive agencies drawing on their customers assets as a collateral – but not impossible to own. I would gladly subscribe to such option in my protection/insurance contract, with understanding that it can only be used to reduce possibility of a war initiated by a collectivist State. If such possibility diminishes, I may feel that I no longer wish to risk my assets for such protection.

On the other hand, if I learn that someone in my town is collecting highly enriched uranium, I’ll take my gun and go shoot him, and will be willing to stand before the court.

David White November 19, 2005 at 7:57 am


“Maybe we’ll both be dead first. In the long run we all are anyways, I once read.”

You read Keynes, then — http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnmaynar110030.html — whom I doubt that you quote approvingly. :-)

As for Jim Bradley’s statement about their being no plan for the creation of a free — i.e., stateless society — you’re right to think in terms of the collapse of the USSR, as the US is rapidly lurching toward same, the difference being that unlike the former, the latter consists of states that are perfectly capable of governing themselves under the rule of law.

Where it will go from there is anyone’s guess, but I for one believe that we are years, not decades, away from the collapse of the US government (as government fiat currencies as a whole are doomed) and that libertarianism therefore has no more urgent task than to prepare the American people by outlining the means by which an orderly return of power to the states can be undertaken.

As for Jim Bradley, this former “libertarian” obviously never understood its principles sufficiently to have actually been one.

MLS November 19, 2005 at 12:10 pm

Bradley, you may be a libertarian and enjoy the US for now, but that does not mean that it can’t change for the worst. In fact it has been changing for the worst for quite some time (say 1930′s). Your idea of checks and balances is pointless because all three agencies are part of the same institution. If you take a closer look at the constitution – you will realize that there nothing to stop the US from becoming a communist country. There really is NOTHING in the constitution to prevent it.

Yancey Ward November 19, 2005 at 1:28 pm

I’m afraid that Jim Bradley is correct- the stateless society is a fantasy. There will have to be a minimal government to enforce property rights and contracts. I simply see no way around this reality. It may be that man is so corruptible that he can never maintain indefinitely such a minimalist government, and that we are doomed to cyclic history.

Frank Z November 19, 2005 at 2:27 pm

An inspiring article.

An anarchy is of course an ideal that can, and I believe, should be striven toward but will never be achieved until our fears are gone.

Terry Hulsey November 19, 2005 at 3:14 pm

Mr. LeFevre presents his case as if he were the first to arrive on the scene of the nature of government. Citing practically no one, addressing none of the familiar problems or solutions, he stands — not upon the shoulders of giants but upon his own molehill, surveying no vista and offering not even one idosyncratic solution.

Paul Edwards November 19, 2005 at 3:48 pm


On what grounds do you feel that the government would enforce property rights and contracts better than the market? Is there a different criterion we should use on the provision of justice than the provision of any other good we prefer to leave to the market?

Did you know that if you are brazen enough to refuse to pay your federal taxes, they will literally send a swat team to your house and point guns at people’s heads if you’re not there to force them to provide your location?

I wish it was an exaggeration to describe the state as the legalized Mafia, but it is not. How we can advocate leaving the provision of justice with a known band of criminals is outside of my understanding. I am convinced that to imagine that the state can take any other form than that of a band of criminals is the height of fantasy.

Kenneth R. Gregg November 19, 2005 at 10:14 pm

Glad to see this classic work available on the mises.org website. LeFevre was a brilliant writer and this was a crucial work in its time, one of the first free-market anarchist works. Certainly there are major differences between LeFevre and Rothbard on the subject of the use of restitutive force and retribution (punishment), but they were far closer than many realized at the time.
Just a thought.
Just Ken

Jim Bradley November 20, 2005 at 7:21 am

David W — Low blow David. I was a libertarian for 10 years, voting and donating to the party and I’ve read volumes of works from numerous authors (including Human Action, Man Economy And State 3 times plus outlining the entire book)… yeah I understand the position fully and it doesn’t make sense from step-by-step implementation. Read below.

MLS — Nothing in a private property state to prevent slide into totalitarianism either. Our framing fathers intended to make it so darn hard for the gov to do things, that politicians spend most of their energies “working against the system”, but still allow legitimate action to be taken. Hence the core difficulty that the “fantasy universe” of private property continually avoids. “Private Property” will not suddenly appear and all will not be well. Not a chance. It has to be implemented… Deal with the tough issues.

Frank (Paul) — This is just goofy: “men fear things so they implement government” — First, so what? Second, libertarians fear government, right? So the criticism goes both ways.

Thanks to Yancey and Terry: the critical factor is implementation, not the “vision”.

Paul — The U.S. hasn’t “given all the guns to the Jones family” and then expected the Jones family to behave as Rothbard incorrectly asserts. In fact, state militias were volunteer armies for the common defense to offset the federal government’s power. It didn’t used to be legalized mafia, Paul. It is the inaction of the majority at the present and past time that has made it that way … a factor that the “libertarian fantasy” has no answer for. Just how does it purport to solve the problems of an inactive majority? We’re back where we started yet again.

Frankly, the criticism that “I don’t understand the libertarian position” is more correctly “some authors on this blog don’t understand the historical structure of the U.S. and it’s practical commitment to freedom.”

David White November 20, 2005 at 11:36 am


“Party” libertarians are statists by definition and thus are not libertarians at all, for they do not understand what Nock did — i.e., that “sending in good people to reform the state is like sending in virgins to reform the whorehouse.”

That is to say, the problem is not the size of the state but the state itself, and while he too was a statist — one of the “framing” fathers; how apt! — Jefferson was right to say “Let history answer this question” in response to the following:

“Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others?”

In a word, no, and when the American welfare-warfare state finally collapses under its own weight (or rather, the weightlessness of its fiat currency), we will at long last have a chance to put stateless society to the test. For as power devolves back to the states, and a global devolution of power ensues, it will only be a matter of time before stateless societies begin to appear.

Will any of them succeed? I believe they will. But until then, every statist must contend with the fact that stateless societies are nowhere to be found today for the simple reason that states prohibit them. This alone is reason enough to question the moral authority of the state — including and especially the “liberal democratic” state of which the United States is supposed to be the standard bearer. And the fact that you are so steeped in its false “historical structure” that you can say with a straight face that the US government has a “practical commitment to freedom” only confirms that you haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.

As for “implementation,” you have but to read tomorrow’s Daily Article (already posted) to see how it can, and will, be done. For with the return to sound money — i.e., to economic reality — the state will shrink to the vanishing point, and people like yourself — those whom Lew rightly says “can’t imagine” this future because they are “adapted to statism” — will nonetheless have to adapt to it.

They will have to adapt to freedom, in other words, whether they want it or not.

Paul Edwards November 20, 2005 at 6:55 pm


You argue, “It is the inaction of the majority at the present and past time that has made it that way…” The problem with your reasoning is that this degradation did not rest on simple inaction of the masses. It started not with inaction of the majority, but the action of a few. Those few, started with an authority we would not in saneness, grant a private individual or private organization.

But yet we granted it to individuals of the federal government. And then it was left alone to take a life of its own, while most of the nation got on with life and slowly forgot what meaning the constitution ever had. It took a while, certainly, but here is where we are today. The constitution is barely an influence on the actions of congress, the executive, or the courts. And why should it be, if they deem it irrelevant? They, the ruling class decide what is constitutional in the end by their arbitrary edicts. Would you care to secede just to confirm my point?

In anarchy, how long would it take “inaction” to obtain the same results. First, private individuals would somehow need to arrogate for themselves state power, a monopoly on force, and obtain acceptance of it by the masses, before anything further could go wrong. How successful would that attempt be amongst anarchists who already have a free market and competition in the supply of weapons, defense and law? They would not have the ability to take that single ominous and fateful first step.

But once you have a state, on the other hand, the first step is a given, and the rest is inevitable.

Jim Bradley November 21, 2005 at 1:06 pm

David W — I understand the voluntaryist society, but it won’t happen. You will have to defend yourself: that is the nature of other aggressive men. The U.S. structure and it’s founders had a practical commitment to freedom — not the government. As far as a return to sound money, how about more on implementation (that wouldn’t collapse the economy) and less on the utopia? Frankly, the glittering generalities of the anarcho-libertarian position is as arrogant as the socialists in their attempt to reform economic man.

Paul — The freedom-killing action of the few was not offset by the freedom-supporting action of the majority.

(Ignoring the obvious problem of transitioning to the anarchian utopia), In anarchy, what decides is power. In anarcho-libertarian society, what decides is economic power which eventually becomes violent political power.

If man is corrupt, in a (probably short) time the attempt will be to form systems of power, buying the support of key opposition and form the very thing (a state) you say “won’t happen”. Regional warlords isn’t my idea of a better society. Neither is a corporate “government” committed to low-priced labor. There are no easy answers, Paul. We must deal with man as he is not as we wish him to be.

Paul Edwards November 21, 2005 at 2:07 pm


If constitional government was viable (i.e. the rulers would abide by the constitution), i’d settle for it if we could show anarchy was definately not viable. However, i remain wholly unconvinced of either.

On the one hand, i am highly skeptical that men, as corrupt as they are, can handle the political power the masses bestow on them in political office. Theory and history strongly suggests that they cannot. Also, part of people’s fear of anarchy, which your argument reflects, is a fear that it would degenerate into a state. This is a credible fear. However i don’t see how invoking a state preemptively, is a preferable plan of action.

It is as David suggests when he quotes Jefferson: “Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others?” No, he cannot. If Jefferson didn’t know the answer to this when he asked it, we sure do know the answer now.

Anyways, we are looking for the same result but we’re looking in different directions to obtain it.

David White November 21, 2005 at 2:35 pm


Recognizing the aggressive nature of man is precisely why the state must be eradicated, as this is where aggression is overwhelmingly concentrated, so much so that man’s cooperative nature is all but overwhelmed by it. That the state’s modern form cannot persist without phony money, however, and that phony money cannot persist by its very nature, is what dooms the state to a drastic loss of power, if not outright eradication.

How exactly will society govern itself in the aftermath of the state’s demise? I can’t say, other than that the “glittering generalities” you refer to makes evident your ignorance of the growing body of literature on this subject. (Here are some recent contributions by Stefan Moloyneux, for example: http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig6/molyneux5.html.)

And in any case, stateless society, or even general anarchy, could hardly be worse than the organized murder and mayhem that is the daily fare of statist society. Do you honestly believe that “regional warlords” could have killed the couple hundred million people that states did in the last century alone? And do you also believe that “regional warlords” could have plundered the people anywhere near as much as less than a century of central banking has?

Call me arrogant if you will, but to me you are but a witless apologist of the status quo and thus of the evil that it endlessly commits.

Jim Bradley November 21, 2005 at 5:10 pm

David W — Core issue: you assume that getting rid of the state is possible, providing no path to get there and no justification that we would remain there. Evidence and the corruptibility of man shows the opposite.

At present, men gain economic and political power and exercise it unjustly and violently and will do so in the future whether the starting point is stateless or not. Our fundamental disagreement is about the results following the corruptible nature of man.

States likely exist primarily as a result of the scarcity of resources in an attempt to restrain the social costs for misusing those resources (hence the huge benefit of private property which punishes and rewards capitalists for their contribution to social progress). If we can restrain the growth of state power, the influence of the state will wane as long as sadists (who enjoy violence for their own pleasure) are kept from power.

It goes without saying that nothing posted here has been a witless apology for the status quo.

David White November 21, 2005 at 5:57 pm


OF COURSE I assume that getting rid of the state is possible! If I assumed it was IMpossible, why in the world would I argue otherwise? Moreover, others have provided paths to its accomplishment, never mind that you refuse to acknowledge them!

As for states, any libertarian worthy of the name (active or former) would know that states DO NOT “exist primarily as a result of the scarcity of resources” but, on the contrary, as a result of the theft — i.e., “the political means” — of goods that were created via work — i.e., “the economic means.” (Honestly, have you not read Oppenheimer’s “The State” or Nock’s “Our Enemy the State”?)

Lastly, while sadists have certainly used the state to further their ends, its modern incarnation consists primarily of those whose intentions are good, the difference being that the Law of Unintended Consequences — http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/UnintendedConsequences.html — while positive in a cooperative (free market) environment, are negative in a coercive (statist) environment.

Being witless about this distinction, you are but another cog in the statist wheel, too encumbered by man’s corruptibility (religious fundamentalist that you are) to appreciate his ability to transcend it.

MLS November 21, 2005 at 5:58 pm

Our framing fathers intended to make it so darn hard for the gov to do things, that politicians spend most of their energies “working against the system”, but still allow legitimate action to be taken.

Which founding fathers? The signers of the Declaration? or the signers of the Constitution? You have to be specific – there were only 6 signatures in common on both documents while the majority of the Independence movement fought vigorously to defeat the constitutional federalists. The constitution mentions nothing about private property – it’s sole existence in our society is brought by the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and yet unfortunately the Declaration has absolutely no LEGAL basis in our society.

It does not matter that it may be difficult for politicians to get exactly their way within their lifetime. The fact is that simply by pushing things in the wrong direction for roughly a century has transformed this country from Minarchy to Socialism.

Hence the core difficulty that the “fantasy universe” of private property continually avoids. “Private Property” will not suddenly appear and all will not be well. Not a chance. It has to be implemented… Deal with the tough issues.

You think the state creates private property? It may be in charge of issuing a certificate but it most certainly does not create it. In fact it survives by destroying it. I see no issue more important than this.

Tim Kern September 4, 2006 at 10:46 am

Yancy Ward said (Nov 19, 2005), “I’m afraid that Jim Bradley is correct- the stateless society is a fantasy. There will have to be a minimal government to enforce property rights and contracts.”

Perhaps we can all back away a little here, and understand that, as a practical matter, the government we know today in the US will not be reduced to any scale where “basic protections” are endangered. The government is so huge, so overwhelming — there is so much momentum and so many votes invested in it — that any such “danger” is ridiculous.

What may help to restrain government’s growth (because that is all I can even hope for, at this point) is for every freedom-loving soul to work as hard and as long as possible, against all facets of government expansion, and against all current unconstitutional governmental entities. If we somehow got back to the Constitution (and we’re nowhere near it), we could then, perhaps, have energy and time enough to criticize each other for being too freedom-loving. As it sits with our current nit-pickings, we’re doing nothing. With some folks’ demands for purity of thought, we go nowhere. Let’s leave this religious fervor to the discussion of religion, and deal with imperfect politics in a practical way: if we can’t seize the levers of power, we can, at least, put sticks in the wheels of its machinery.

Don’t worry: the persecution of individuals will not stop. Government will not collapse from these efforts. Let’s just try to lessen it, by acting where we can, and by informing whenever possible.

Stephen Minnich May 16, 2007 at 10:06 pm

Defining private and public property has and always will be an issue. This directive was placed in the judiciary branch by the founders.
Today’s society has a situation where nearly all the private property and money is in the control of a few men who have corrupted the public’s government to protect and increase their ‘ownership’ of these
dubiously ‘legal’ holdings. This, while an increasing majority of citizens now own nothing.
This is an obvious reason and invitation for a powerful ‘socialist’ democratic movement to gain ground if it promises justice.
It is the degree of private corruption and distrust in the current gov as well as the lethargy of the electorate that are impeding this movement.
Only the massive shortages that this system will soon induce will be enough to break the deadlock.
THEN, the demand will be for accountable, efficient, and actually brilliant administration. And likely a NEW currency, and conceivably property LIMITS.
Libertarians will have an important and exciting role in these ‘socialist’ reforms, and will realise that their training has led them to design not a weak, but a STRONG government, and one that protects individual’s liberties even and above property ‘rights’.
It would only be natural for the gov which issues the currency to be the sole banker of it.
Giving freedom it’s due, individuals should be allowed to practise competitive functions but WITHOUT protection and garruanties.
A libertarian democracy COULD be a very high-service and innovative government if the voters desire it to be.

Logan Rumney March 6, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Interesting take on this, as a pilot I’m always keen to understand a lot more about aviation.

Suverans2 February 11, 2011 at 7:30 am


5. Government As Competitor

We have now shown that government has a single, possibly legitimate, function, that of apprehending and punishing the criminal. We have also shown that government has, in its manifold legal actions, gone far beyond its possible legitimacy by passing thousands upon thousands of laws and rules which tend to equate the avenge individual, who is peaceful and orderly, with the criminal who commits acts of aggression with willful intent.The word “avenge” should be corrected to read “average”.

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