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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4372/the-state-is-the-murderers-true-refuge/

The state is the murderer’s true refuge

November 27, 2005 by

I’m confused about where to draw the line between “rogue states”–like the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein–and legitimate “sovereign” states. My confusion arises from the fact that the Australian government was an active participant in the war to overthrow Hussein, who to my knowledge never attacked Australia, yet there appear to be no such plans to attack Singapore, despite that country’s plan to commit the premediated murder of an Aussie citizen this coming Friday:

Nguyen Tuong Van, 25, will be hanged at dawn on December 2 unless Singapore bends to growing calls to spare his life. On Monday, Canberra said it was considering taking Singapore to the International Court of Justice.

“It is important that, despite Singapore’s relentless use of the death penalty, we show that we will persist until this cruel and ineffective punishment is abolished,” said London-based rights group Amnesty International in a statement Saturday.

Singapore says it considers all aspects when an appeal is put forth, but clemency pleas have seldom worked in the city-state, especially for death-row convicts — only six have been spared from execution since Singapore’s independence in 1965.

Amnesty says around 420 people have been hanged in Singapore since 1991, giving the Southeast Asian nation of 4 million the distinction of having the highest per capita execution rate in the world — ahead of countries like China and Saudi Arabia.

Nguyen was arrested at Singapore’s Changi Airport in 2002 while flying from Cambodia to the southern Australian city of Melbourne with 396 grams (14 ounces) of heroin strapped to his back and in his carry-on luggage. He maintains he did it to help his twin brother pay debts.


Under Singapore law, anyone possessing more than 15 grams (0.53 ounces) of heroin is presumed to be trafficking and faces death if found guilty. Singapore says it must deal harshly with drug offenders to protect society.

Appeal hearings are usually over in minutes, with judges routinely giving their verdict before disappearing into their chambers. Lawyers would then have to refer to their written judgment to take further action.

Letters to relatives informing them of the execution date are extremely simple, and contain just a few paragraphs.

Humans rights advocates call the penalty excessive.

“The adoption of such a black-and-white approach is entirely inappropriate where the life of the accused is at stake,” said Philip Alston, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions for the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

“Once the sentence has been carried out it is irreversible,” he said last week.

Yet Singapore refuses to compromise on what it says in an internal matter.

“Singapore maintains that capital punishment is a criminal justice issue. It is the sovereign right of every country,” Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in reply to Alston.

There is no “sovereign right” to commit murder, any more than there is an individual right to commit murder. To argue otherwise–as some have one under the pretext of not “imposing” western values on Singapore–is simply to condone mob violence. Ultimately, that’s all Singapore’s government is, an armed mafia, predisposed towards the initiation of force whenever they encounter behavior that they disapprove of.

But the impending murder of Mr. Nguyen also reflects poorly on Australia’s “democratic” state. A government that demands absolute loyalty (and taxes) from its citizens has been exposed as powerless to prevent the pre-announced murder of one of its own. In the United States, we use heavily armed paramiltary forces (a.k.a. “SWAT teams”) to serve search warrants; yet somehow Canberra can’t bring itself to assemble the necessary forces to liberate Mr. Nguyen from his murderers. Instead, Australia’s grand plan is to bring Singapore before a faux international “court” that has no mechanism to enforce its decisions.

When a man can be executed by hanging for transporting 14 ounces of a substance through an airport, and the self-proclaimed “democracies” of the world stand by and do not take the necessary actions to save his life, I think the case against the state has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

{ 30 comments }

Roger M November 28, 2005 at 10:01 am

You are confused! Your anarchism has led you to believe that punishment of a criminal for breaking the law is no different than murdering someone for their possessions. Those of us who aren’t anarchists can see the difference. As for the differences between Iraq and Indonesia, let me think. Iraq started a war with Iran, invaded Kuwait and murdered many of its citizens, broke all of the articles of the peace treaty, murdered over a million of its own citizens, attempted to assassinate the US president, had plans to blow up US airlines over the Pacific, fired at US and British flights every day for 12 years, was implicated in the Oklahoma City bombing, was trying to build a nuclear weapon to destroy Israel. I could go on but I don’t want to bore those readers who are already well informed.

Skip Oliva November 28, 2005 at 11:39 am

Roger M,

You are the one who is confused. Your statism has led you to believe that murder is justified when committed by a group of armed thugs who call themselves a “government.” Any argument you make to the contrary is simply a rationalization for murder, nothing more.

Jim Bradley November 28, 2005 at 5:33 pm

You are confused, right along with Rothbard who spent lots of time flaming about the U.S. government for its stance against communist countries even as those countries went on their brutal killing sprees and forced starvation on their populations.

Informed from the anarcho-fundamentalist perspective that the only real crimes punishable by the citizenry are those that violate private property – in other words, seducing 12Yr olds is perfectly acceptable provided he or she has “emancipated themselves” from their parents – now you are confused as to whether Iraq was a greater danger than Singapore. Does the 1980s attempt (after buying it from the French) to use reactor technology strike any bells? The reactor was subsequently taken out by Israel — Jews fighting to survive barely one generation after the attempted extermination by Hitler, and surviving the countless Arab incursions — or is that “property right” still outside of the radar?

Surely you can do better.

Vince Daliessio November 28, 2005 at 6:12 pm

Jim,

1) To the degree that US involvement in WWI helped empower Stalin and set the stage for WWII, then yes, we made it our business, otherwise we would have been much better off staying the hell out of Europe and everywhere else, and let the people of those countries fight their own battles. Nothing in the preceding sentence should be construed as advocating interferance in the internal affairs of any foreign country, nor an endorsement of the horrible way many of them treat their citizens.

2) 12 year-olds who “emancipate” themselves from their parents are very likely to have some serious problem with their parent’s treatment of them, are they not? Not that I think it is any trouble at all to deduce a property right in the raising of a minor child that is conditional upon kind treatment, nor is his argument evidence that Rothbard advocated child buggery. Nothing in the above paragraph should be construed to indicate that I am in favor of child buggery.

3) That reactor was private (OK, government) property , and Hussein would have been completely justified (if very, very foolish) in demanding restitution and retaliating against Israel.

4) The GOVERNMENT of Israel was illegally imposed upon the peoples of the physical region (Palestine) beginning with the end of WWI. It is as illegitimate as any government in the region (pretty much all of them). None of that would have prevented Jews from moving to Palestine and living peacefully among the residents there already, as many did in the years before WWI, and after. Nothing in the above paragraph should be construed as approving of or advocating the Holocaust, or denying the magnitude or monstrosity therof.

Your turn Jim.

Vince Daliessio November 28, 2005 at 6:19 pm

Roger;

Since when does a capital sentence for carting around a few ounces of heroin, far from fitting any civilized ideal of proportional justice, even fit the Christian admonition of “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”? More like a head for a tooth pick if you ask me.

I actually support the death penalty, in theory, if absolutely justly administered. The problem from my perspective is that I cannot imagine an earthly government that is capable of administering a death sentence justly, as the many exonerations of convicted murderers by Scheck and Neufeld’s “Innocence Project” indicate.

averros November 28, 2005 at 9:49 pm

Anyone still thinking that US Govt’s “anticommunist” stance has anything to do with the collapse of communism in the USSR is simply ignorant.

What brought USSR down was the mounting disillusionment of its own people with the more and more obvious discrepancy between professed ideals and the observable reality of the communist rule. When people started to realize that communist elite was behaving more like petty thieves than fearless leaders they styled themselves to be, the days of communist regime were counted.

And, no, the Cold War, socialist economics sliding to hell, and such have nothing to do with the collapse of the USSR – those actually served to _prolong_ the communist rule, by providing visible confirmations to the claims of the rulers that there are enemies everyhwere. USSR’s people have survived much worse than just shortage of bread, with collectivist fervor and adoration of the dictator at its highest.

Vince Daliessio November 28, 2005 at 10:49 pm

Agreed, averros – far from justifying the Cold War, Soviet “aggression” against the US was simply used to justify huge, wasteful expenditures of taxpayers’ money building weapons that, while not working terribly well, still nearly managed to wipe out all major cities on earth, and vastly enriching defense contractors.

Vince Daliessio November 28, 2005 at 10:49 pm

Agreed, averros – far from justifying the Cold War, Soviet “aggression” against the US was simply used to justify huge, wasteful expenditures of taxpayers’ money building weapons that, while not working terribly well, still nearly managed to wipe out all major cities on earth, and vastly enriching defense contractors.

Jim Bradley November 29, 2005 at 10:13 am

Vince – #1 Please specify at what point is it right for the U.S. to intervene and under what conditions? For which set of countries was it right for the U.S. to intervene? On the one hand the U.S. shouldn’t intervene but on the other the U.S. should have gone to war against Stalin?

I make no excuse for our installing dictatorships or using economic embargos. That’s pathetic and reflective of our three front war: against our government, against other governments, against our own citizens that believe in things that support either of the above to our detriment.

#2 — Bottom line: no reasonable person adheres to Rothbard’s hard-line anarcho vision of children (or non-premptive pure property right universe). The state DOES have a right to intervene to stop child abuse (also to stop passive neglect fully allowed by the anarcho “vision”), and children do not have the legal right to make decisions above their psychological capacity … since the difficulty of determining actual capacity proves intractable, the legal process has settled on ages of development which is likely the least costly tradeoff.

#3 – The reactor was regarded as a pre-emptive threat against Israel given that Arab dictatorships continued to war against the nation of the Jews since Israel was founded (including the 7 days war in which the Arab nations attempted to exterminate the Jews … again). Survival first.

#4 – The tiny land of Israel was taken by war (look at a map for heaven’s sake) and established by the U.N. displacing few locals (compared to the tumultuous WWII time) who were free to integrate into Israel (although many fled fearing the other Arab nations uniting against the Jews). Arab nations didn’t regard the “holy land” as “holy” until Jews got there. Israel remains the richest, freest, best place for any non-ruling Arab these days: No Arab nation has expressed much desire to help the “palestinians” or more accurately “Syrians in Palestine” although possessing giant multiples of the tiny land of Israel — The “Palestinians” are brutalized by Arabs as a political tool against Israel who amazingly continue to attempt to preserve innocent life (at the cost of their own lives) given the constant terrorist attacks against them. I note the handover of Palestinians to “Hamasville” dropped their GDP by 90% …

The only way practically to take and defend land is by force of arms. That is the nature of man on the earth and it will continue to be so until man is cured of his corruption (hence the correct religious view of the sinful nature of man). It is a fantasy (and contrary to our founders view) to act as if every state is “illegitimate” or “unnatural” as all evidence shows that states have degrees of legitimacy and states ARE the natural state of affairs.

The libertarian view of history has it’s valid points — however it is stretched far beyond the breaking point. Informed by praxeology, anarcho-libertarians illegitimately make the jump to assume there can be no legitimate extra-private-property morality and then have gone on to rewrite their own version of history. While contributing some value to historical analysis, this has become mythology, not history, and I’d be cautious of any version in which the U.S. is persistently the “bad guy” contrary to it’s economic performance for the majority of citizens in the U.S. and contrary to the horrible state of affairs in much of the rest of the world.

And books written by libertarians should focus on the practical implementation of private property (given the corrupible nature of man) not delve into alternative universes.

Jim Bradley November 29, 2005 at 10:25 am

Averros — the USSR survived much longer than otherwise, not because of us being an “enemy”, but because they could observe our markets and see something about relative pricing of goods and steal our technology. Without us as a host, their parasitic political system would have died long ago … that’s a Misesian argument. Mises.org should stick to praxeology. Mises and Rothbard were far, far different (Reisman makes the same observation, and Reisman vigorously disagrees with many of Rothbard’s strange explanations of history).

There’s plenty of room for “conservative libertarians” in Misesian economics, but the anarcho’s seem to have taken over, greatly to the detriment of the arguments. The point is to have a practical implementation of private property under the constraint that man is sinful and corrupt — hence the miraculous survival of our nation against the more natural order of slavery. Contrary to libertarian thought (and revisionist history), “unfettered markets” are not at all natural and we are not EVER “born into a state of nature” nor do we “self-create” but instead have been created outside of our own power and been given certain gifts as well as costs.

David J. Heinrich November 29, 2005 at 10:49 am

Jim,

Responding to a few of your numbered bullet-points:

1. In response to your first question, that is no different than asking, at “what poitn is the US justified to steal from its taxpayers”. What is so difficult to understand about “Thou shall not steal?” In the Bible, tax-collectors are repeatedly referred to as evil and wicked human beings, even though Jesus forgives them. Note how many times Jesus refers to tax-collectors along with harlots and sinners; especially when rebuking the Pharisees. Although he forgives them, this is not a condonement of thievery; rather, what he is saying is that “even the tax-collectors” will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven before the Pharisees.

Regarding economic matters, the cold war was a huge waste of money in the US, which impoverished this nation, caused inflation, and hence led to business cycles.

2. Where oh where do you get the idea that libertarians condone child-abuse? This constitutes an initiation of aggression against children. From Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty:

First, the rights of the parents. In present law, children may be seized from their parents by outside adults (almost always, the State) for a variety of reasons. Two reasons, physical abuse by the parent and voluntary abandonment, are plausible, since in the former case the parent aggressed against the child, and in the latter the parent voluntarily abandoned custody. Two points, however, should be mentioned: (a) that, until recent years, the parents were rendered immune by court decisions from ordinary tort liability in physically aggressing against their children—fortunately, this is now being remedied;[15] and (b) despite the publicity being given to the “battered child syndrome,” it has been estimated that only 5 percent of “child abuse” cases involve physical aggression by the parents.[16]

Thus, Rothbard addresses both active child abuse (the initiation of aggression, which means parents may be punished, their children taken away) and “passive child abuse” (abandonment, which means they’ve abandoned custodial rights, hence others can homestead them).

Regarding children making decisions, it is perfectly reasonable to say that they may make decisions for themselves when they demonstrate this capacity: which they clearly, and indisputeably, do by moving out of their parents houses and supporting themselves.

3. I’ll partially agree with you on nuclear weapons, and whatnot. In short, we take a common-law perspective of what matters from the point of view of the reasonable man. Certain actions can clearly be seen as threat of initiation of aggression. It depends on the situation, but there are guidelines none-the-less. If a man comes running at you with a knife, are you entitled to use aggression to “defend yourself”? It depends on if it is reasonable to see this as aggression. If you’re filming a movie, no. Or if he’s running at you to say something to you, no. If, however, he’s running at you with the knife held above his head yelling “kill kill kill!”, then yes. On this, see Blcok, Walter. Toward a Universal Libertarian Theory of Gun (Weapon) Control.

Paul Edwards November 29, 2005 at 11:00 am

“man is sinful and corrupt” i agree. Therefore, don’t give him a monopoly on police protection, the courts, and defense; otherwise we compound his weakness with great power and temptation which no sinful and corrupt man can resist.

Why advocate something that satan himself offered Jesus as a temptation no less? “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee,…”

Such an offer may be too good to refuse. So lets not make it.

Jim Bradley November 29, 2005 at 6:31 pm

David – A free people can at any time assist other countries in defense of their people. You should answer the tough questions because that’s where the decisive factors exist.

Rothbard: “Applying our theory to parents and children, this means that a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children, but also that the parent should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights. ”

Paul – The argument is to return to a practical system of liberty: not an impossible (in my view) libertarian society.

averros November 29, 2005 at 11:10 pm

Jim:

> the USSR survived much longer than otherwise,
> not because of us being an “enemy”, but because
> they could observe our markets and see something
> about relative pricing of goods and steal our
> technology.

C’mon. You should know better than that. First of all, until late 60s, USSR wasn’t technologically inferior to US. Until 90s it had quite good educational system: I have more than few friends who came to US 10-15 years ago literally penniless and became successful professionals (and made millions for themselves) in high-tech.

Socialist ecomomy does not care much about pricing of goods – the real currency is allocations (the so called “funds”). And, to a some extent, allocations were made according to common sense and driven by objective needs of production. The Mises’ observation about lack of economical computation in socialism is often misinterpreted to mean that pure socialist economy is impossible; in fact it only means that economic interests of everyone but the top guy(s) are ignored, or taken into account only at a level needed for sustainance. That’s why socialism is usually killed by the death of the people’s dictator, and appears to be stable under strong ruler.

Socialist society is a corporation taken to extreme. It is engaged in the economic computation, but only externally; internally the complex system of political give-and-take overrides economic considerations. A well-run corporation can be a lot more successful than a bunch of independent guys, primarily because it has lower transaction costs; but it also critically depends on quality of leadership.

> Without us as a host, their parasitic political
> system would have died long ago…

No, it wouldn’t. The reality is that USSR successfully reconstructed its nearly totalled economy after WWII, and life there wasn’t much worse than in US (different, but in many respects more comfortable psychologically — like, for many people their workplaces were de-facto social clubs), for a long time. It failed not because life became unbearable (a lot of old-timers are quite nostalgic about it, if you ask them) but because of the wide-spread perception of hypocrisy and unworthiness of the leadership.

People are not driven to work productively solely by economic considerations – and there are quasi-econimics of reputations and reciprocities (for example, the successful free software movement, or the ethos of “shestidesyatniki” (“60s people”) optimistic communism, which could only be described as nearly religious commitment to altruism (I know that one quite well, my parents were typical representatives of the movement). In Israel, kibutzes are not dying off, the last time I checked (the funny thing, the night sights on my Sig-Sauer handgun (Meprolights) are made in a kibbutz:)

A competition of socialist societies (or corporations, for that matter) could keep the free-loader problem in check, at least for a while; and so could do autoritarian policies punushing “parasites”. The problem with socialism is not economical per se (unless one wants to argue that material affluence is the sole measure of well-being, and that stagnant societies are psychologically worse to their inhabitants than rapidly evolving ones), but moral.

Socialism enforces conformism, and is very brutal to those who are different (I know that, too, as I have seen both love and hate sides of the regime). For someone having no aspirations beyond living like everyone else, socialist life could be rather happy and fulfilling.

> Mises.org should stick to praxeology. Mises and
> Rothbard were far, far different (Reisman makes
> the same observation, and Reisman vigorously
> disagrees with many of Rothbard’s strange
> explanations of history).

I’ll stick to the reality of what I observed with my own eyes.

> There’s plenty of room for “conservative
> libertarians” in Misesian economics, but the
> anarcho’s seem to have taken over, greatly to
> the detriment of the arguments.

Ancap is the only logically consistent system which can be derived from the moral imperative of non-aggression.

Being illogical is detrimental of the arguments; in fact, it destroys them. You, yourself, consistently fail to defend your position, offering mere unsupported assertions in place of arguments.

> The point is to have a practical implementation
> of private property under the constraint that
> man is sinful and corrupt — hence the
> miraculous survival of our nation against the
> more natural order of slavery.

Heh. The flag is the same. The nation is different. Who cares about crap like nations anyway?

As for argument from evil nature of men – I already offered an experimentum cruces to test the conformity of this assertion to the reality, in another place.

> Contrary to libertarian thought (and revisionist
> history), “unfettered markets” are not at all
> natural and we are not EVER “born into a state
> of nature” nor do we “self-create” but instead
> have been created outside of our own power and
> been given certain gifts as well as costs.

Libertarian thought is not about free markets. It is about non-aggression. Insistence on free markets is merely a consequence of this moral assertion.

You either agree that initiating aggression is morally wrong, and then you have to accept what follows from it, or you must say what exactly moral principles trump this moral imperative.

As soon as you state them explicitly and unambiguously, you’ll see that all of them (at least advanced by other people, so far) are equivalent to the “right of force” – or, simply put, barbarism. Thank you, we already had enough of that.

Vince Daliessio November 30, 2005 at 9:00 am

Jim asks;

“Vince – #1 Please specify at what point is it right for the U.S. to intervene and under what conditions? For which set of countries was it right for the U.S. to intervene? On the one hand the U.S. shouldn’t intervene but on the other the U.S. should have gone to war against Stalin?”

A) At the precise moment a Soviet soldier, bullet, ship, missile, or aircraft crossed a US border, we would be totally justified in capturing or destroying the offending person or object. Any other point is simply imperialism.

I’m a little less clear on what retaliatory steps would be permissible, probably proportional to the offense. But federal military activity beyond the borders and territorial waters of the continental US in the absence of an actual attack (not the threat of an attack) is impermissible under the constitution as written.

David J. Heinrich November 30, 2005 at 9:15 am

Jim,

Regarding your assertion that a free country can at any time assist the people’s of other countries, it’s just that — a raw, unbacked assertion. Your assertion boils down to nothing more than the justification of thievery and robbery, because the crooks (that is, members of Congress, the President, etc) say they’re stealing money for a “good reason”. If you have a problem with the way someone else is being treated, you’re welcomed to use your resources to defend that perseon; you’re not entitled to steal from me or anyone else to assist you in doing such. Advocating inflation (which also causes the business cycle) or taxation to fund wars is nothing more than advocating stealing.

How about all of these war hawks fund America’s wars with their own money? That way, these immoral individuals can all go bankrupt and starve under due to the debt they’ve placed themselves in. Of course, every war-hawk knows that him and other war-hawks don’t have the resources to fund a war, and need to externalize that cost on others, making others pay for their aggression.

Even ignoring all of that, you can’t escape the fact that the US has murdered millions of innocent civilians in our wars. These are the people we’re supposed to be helping? What a joke.

Re your quote on Rothbard, as usual, you’re leaving out important facts (like the fact that a free market in custodial rights would drive child neglect and abuse down significantly below current-day levels). And not all libertarians agree with him on his comment re positive obligations to children (Kinsella doesn’t). Nor is it even particularly significant in a libertarian society, due to community covenants.

David J. Heinrich November 30, 2005 at 9:20 am

averros,

You’re wrong on socialism and calculation. A socialist economy is impossible. You can only have a socialist diseconomy. Even when talking about the “top guy” and what he wants, due to the lack of private property, hence lack of a free market and genuine pricing system, he has no way of knowing how to get what he wants in the most economical (efficient) way.

Also, Mises said “socialism is impossible”, something which is true, when we consider the definition of socialism according to Marx and others: An “economic system” that would bring about a state of super-abundance and prosperity — the oceans would become lemonaid, etc. Mises showed that in no way can the “economic system” advocated by socialists bring about prosperity (it is a diseconomy), and hence that Socialism itself is impossible: as impossible as a round square.

Jim Bradley November 30, 2005 at 12:30 pm

Vince – By analogy, until the knife crosses the boundary of your skin into the epidermis, you don’t have any reasonable pre-emptive action! Get real.

Averros — “I’ll believe my eyes” imparts no force to your argument. After all there are millions of experiences. Which to choose? What is the cause and what is the effect?

Slavery can be logically consistent (superior races, etc.). Come on, consistency isn’t the most important criterion. “Barbarism” and associated charges are certainly commitable in libertarian society (starving one’s helpless grandmother).

I’ll defer you to other blog strings on the rest of the issues which have been discussed at length.

Paul Edwards November 30, 2005 at 12:51 pm

Averos:

While I’m with you on your libertarian conclusions, I strongly disagree with you on your view on the calculation issue. And while I haven’t lived under it, I feel that the experience you had with socialism can be viewed more clearly under the focusing lens of Austrian analysis.

1. the real currency [in a socialist economy] is allocations (the so called “funds”). And, to some extent, allocations were made according to common sense and driven by objective needs of production. The Mises’ observation about lack of economical computation in socialism is often misinterpreted to mean that pure socialist economy is impossible;

Mises’s observations regarding socialism, calculation and chaos mean precisely that a pure socialist economy is impossible. If it weren’t for making use of markets outside of the USSR, and likely black markets within it, there could be absolutely no option but to have devastating economic chaos and abject and brutal mass poverty in socialist Russia. Without private ownership in the means of production, there are no prices in factors, and no way to know how to allocate them at all. There would be no way to apply common sense to the allocation question because there are no objective needs of production, only subject preferences ultimately dictated by the consumer (in a market economy that is). The only way to ascertain these values is through prices and profit and loss calculations made by entrepreneurs who care about such issues because they have a personal stake in them. Pure socialism equals economic chaos and poverty.

2. Socialist society is a corporation taken to extreme. It is engaged in the economic computation, but only externally; internally the complex system of political give-and-take overrides economic considerations. A well-run corporation can be a lot more successful than a bunch of independent guys, primarily because it has lower transaction costs; but it also critically depends on quality of leadership.

A massive private corporation with a monopoly on all factors of production and yet run for profit would suffer the identical calculation problems that a pure socialist state does. Such a corporation would never obtain for just that reason. Without a means to compare the efficiency with which it produces all the producer’s goods that it consumes against an external market, it could not know how well it was allocating resources. Calculation issues put a practical limit on the growth of corporations in the free market. This is elaborated in minute detail in MES.

3. The problem with socialism is not economical per se (unless one wants to argue that material affluence is the sole measure of well-being, and that stagnant societies are psychologically worse to their inhabitants than rapidly evolving ones), but moral.

There may be many enormous problems with socialism. The fact that it is economically unviable is one of the most important.

4. For someone having no aspirations beyond living like everyone else, socialist life could be rather happy and fulfilling.

For someone having no aspirations beyond suffering poverty and hunger, or perhaps inflicting it on the masses, socialist life could be happy and fulfilling. :)

Yancey Ward November 30, 2005 at 1:49 pm

I have followed this debate avidly, but until now, have not really contributed to it. However, let me propose a hypothetical:

I am a property owner and I build a chemical factory that pollutes the adjacent properties. Upon learning this, I shutter my factory, but otherwise offer no other restitution to my neighbors, whose properties are now greatly devalued. In an anarcho-capitalist world, exactly what recourse to action would the violated property owners have?

Vince Daliessio November 30, 2005 at 4:23 pm

Jim sez;

“Vince – By analogy, until the knife crosses the boundary of your skin into the epidermis, you don’t have any reasonable pre-emptive action! Get real.”

The analogy doesn’t work because in the real world, a person who trespassed on my property with a knife would never get anywhere near my epidermis :o)

Seriously, a reasonable border / marine buffer would keep all but ICBMs out, and we could eventually shoot those down too, if they became an issue (moot right now). Terrorism remains a possibility, but much less likely if we stay the hell out of the business of other countries.

Meanwhile, if we destroy another country’s weapons factories because they MAY try to use them against us, then they are morally justified in trying to destroy our weapons factories, no?

Paul Edwards November 30, 2005 at 5:50 pm

Yancey:

Excellent question: “In an anarcho-capitalist world, exactly what recourse to action would the violated property owners have?”

I picture a Class action suit against those who the neighbors’ insurance companies and lawyers advise are most responsible. This case would be tried in a court agreed on by both parties’ insurance companies. I think For a New Liberty lays out a possible free market court procedure.

If the polluter does not accept the terms of the decision then he becomes an outlaw and, if a system like that suggested by Stefan Molyneux were in place,

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig6/molyneux3.html
http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig6/molyneux2.html
http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig6/molyneux1.html

then life would be most unpleasant for him. I would even say unbearable.

averros November 30, 2005 at 10:52 pm

I’m sorry, I’m not able to write detailed answers right now, but to anyone claiming impossibility of sustainable socialist economics I would suggest finding an anthill and taking a long look at it.

Yes, it is stagnant. Yes, lives of induvidual ants count for nothing. But it exists and successfully holds its own against individualist enemies. Ants do have division of labour, and even known to tame other insect species as “domestic animals” or tend gardens.

If ants can do that, then people with the right mindset can do that, too.

The core assumption in the praxeological axiom of action is that people act in their own interests (which are unspecified and unknowable). This fails to explain the attractiveness of socialist ideas to the people at large.

This axiom, in its classical form, does NOT match the modern understanding of how human mind works – unlike animals, people are carriers of two kinds of replicators – genetic _and_ memetic. Although these were conclusively shown to co-evolve, they also have very diverse interests, primarily because of different modes of replication (genes are strictly vertical, memes are to a large degree horizontal). Memes manipulate behaviour of people to drive them to aid propagation of memes. That what makes _you_ and me to spend our time writing in this blog instead of doing something to enrich ourselves or just have fun.

Collectivism is a rather successful (from evolutionary point of view… it managed to get hold of majority of people) memeplex. So are all major religions and the scientific method.

What we are doing here is, essentially, evolving and spreading another memeplex, “mememe” (as in “genome”) of which is based on bits and pieces of older, rather unsuccessful attempts to spread the same ideas.

The explanatory power of praxeology is limited because it assumes that there’s no way to know the subjective utilities (other than by observing effects of voluntary trades). This is no longer true; the advent of ethology and evolutionary psychology (and recently, evolutionary methods in sociology) have shed some light on why people prefer some courses of action to others. Like biological evolutionary theory, it offers little in the way of specific predictions, but allows us to grasp the large picture. Which pretty much boils down to the observation that cultural evolution is akin to the evolution in bacterial colonies and viral particles, especially in species known for high rates of horizontal gene transfer (bacteria are known for swapping pieces of their DNA between themselves, and retroviruses routinely splice themseles into host’s DNA and sometimes take chunks of it with them).

Now, because libertarian thought is centered around the notion of controlling aggression, I find it very amusing that most libertarians seem to be ignorant of why there’s aggression in the first place, and how the nature has dealt with it: for an introduction to ethology I would suggest old, but still one of the best, book by Konrad Lorenz, “On Aggression (The So-Called Evil)” – a lot of modern empirical work pretty much validated what he wrote back then (and it is an enjoyable read, too). On evolutionary theory and the basic idea of memetics, I’d also suggest the original source: Richard Dawkins, “The Selfish Gene” (I prefer “The Extended Phenotype”, but it may be too technical for non-specialists).

For a brief recap of Lorenz’s theory: aggression was the most primitive mechanism for protection against resource overuse in territorial species. Because it is deleterious to the population (wasted energy, injuries, deaths, etc) later evolution created modifiers on the basic aggressive behaviour, he proceeds to demonstrate that dominance/submission signalling, social hierarchies, ritualistic moves, family/extended family/group bonding, pair bonding (aka “love”), etc. are in fact such aggression control mechanisms. The implication is that the human cultures continue to evolve such controls (i.e. what we call morals and ethics) – but the basic instinctive controls also keep working.

Species (or subspecies) which fail to develop adequate aggression controls eventually give way to better-adapted species (adequate depends on circumstances, too – higher population densities and increased ability to do harm to others mean that stronger controls are needed, which matches empirical laws in zoology).

Same works for cultures. One way to see libertatiranism is to consider it an emerging cultural specie (previously confined to niches) – it offers a different way to control aggression; hopefully superior to the one offered by collectivism, monarchism, or theocracy.

But one of the lessons of the evolutionary theory is that being superior in one (or even few aspects) does not guarantee evolutionary success. Offering a superior economic system is not enough to guarantee a success of an ideology.

Now, can we please get our heads out of sand and try to understand what other branches of science may tell us?

slate December 1, 2005 at 3:14 am

To get back to the original post, Nguyen Tuong Van will be executed tommorrow for being convicted of Drug Trafficking. This is the law in Singapore, period. Australia, which I am a proud citizen, respects the laws and regulations of other countries, unlike the USA. How, realistically, can you say that it reflects poorly on Australia’s “democratic” state. Just because we don’t go around the world forcing “democracy” down other countries throats against their will, how exaclty are we “Exposed as Powerless”? He did the crime, he was aware of the consequences in that country. Have you been to Australia? Do you know what it is like to live there? I bet you don’t even own a passport? Pious statements like these just show everyone how ignorant and arrogant some U.S. citizens can be.

In this statement:

“In the United States, we use heavily armed paramiltary forces (a.k.a. “SWAT teams”) to serve search warrants; yet somehow Canberra can’t bring itself to assemble the necessary forces to liberate Mr. Nguyen from his murderers.”

Are you advocating that the Australian Government form a bunch of mercenaries to go bust him out of a Singaporean jail? What kind of gung ho insular world does the average American live in? IF I was to advocate any such actions it would be to form a group of well armed aussies and go bust out David Hicks from your totally illegal, immoral “Gitmo” prison in Cuba. I find your hypocrisy astounding. By early December, the U.S. is likely to conduct the 1,000th execution[murder] since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

People living in glass houses should not throw stones.

Vince Daliessio December 1, 2005 at 8:37 am

Slate,

I think the author is engaging in a little bit of retrograde statism here, but I think we can forgive him if we substitute a diplomatic “SWAT” team for a paramilitary one. Unfortunately, the government of Australia has more to gain by simply standing by and bleating than by actually sending in hardcore diplomats or mercenaries, since those courses bear the risk of failure, wheras sitting around complaining creates no expectations.

Dain December 1, 2005 at 12:14 pm

David. Strong points overall, but one little thing: the comment about “oceans becoming lemonade” was made by Charles Fourier, the French “Utopian”. It wasn’t Marx, who probably would have scoffed at the idea.

Yancey Ward December 1, 2005 at 4:24 pm

Paul Edwards,

I am sympathetic to much of what Molyneux writes, but I think he and others miss a fundamental point: there is a collective interest in the enforcement of property rights, and any mechanism to enforce such rights is a de facto state apparatus. Indeed, in Molyneux’s essays, he writes that vigilance is all that is required to prevent his DROs from becoming tyrannical, but he too lightly dismisses the idea that a majority will, in fact, fail to be vigilant. In essence, I submit that what Molyneux and others call a “stateless” society is no such thing, but just a state of a different type, and real vigilance will always be required. However, this in no way means that I think Molyneux’s world is unrealizable, only that I don’t think it stateless.

Paul Edwards December 1, 2005 at 10:50 pm

Yancey:

If you believe that “any mechanism to enforce …[property] rights is a de facto state apparatus”, then you believe a stateless society is by definition lawless and chaotic. What it means is that if the free market provides protection of property rights, courts, police and defense, these enterprises by definition form a state. I don’t think I can agree to this definition.

Let me propose a more common and to my mind, a much more satisfactory and libertarian definition of the state. The state is a coercively enforced monopoly on such services as courts, police and defense where funding for these services is provided by taxation (theft), extracted under the threat of violence. That is the state. It is the antithesis of the free market. It doesn’t arise from free market activity, and its services are provided on a coercive basis.

Now if that definition makes any more sense to you, or seems any more useful, you can use it to re-evaluate Molyneux’s world to decide if what he is proposing is a state, or anarchy.

Dain December 2, 2005 at 10:36 pm

I like Paul’s definition of the state. It’s much more thorough than simply “The State is Force”, which could be interpreted to mean that my mean uncle Billy is a state. And not everything that inhibits the free market is a state; mean uncle Billy for instance…

Sanket August 11, 2007 at 2:46 pm

Property is a creation of the state. Land is the basis of all property. History shows that land has seldom belonged to its first cultivators. As the very basis of pvt. property is violated, there is no innate crime in violating pvt. property.It is a crime against the state. Secondly, agriculture does not fundamentally alter the land- the bio-chemical properties of land are more or less intact after the cultivation and harvesting of a crop. Hence as there is no fundamental transformation, land is no one’s property.

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