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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7299/anarchists-progress/

Anarchist’s Progress

October 15, 2007 by

  1. The Majesty of the Law
  2. Reformers, Noble and Absurd
  3. To Abolish Crime or to Monopolize It?
  4. The Prevalent Air of Cynicism
  1. The Unique Anomalies of the State
  2. The Assumption of a Professional Criminal Class
  3. The Origin of the State
  4. After the Revolution, Napoleon!

Albert Jay Nock, in this seminal essay, discusses his gradual realization that the state is not what it claims to be:

“The State claims and exercises the monopoly of crime that I spoke of a moment ago, and that it makes this monopoly as strict as it can. It forbids private murder, but itself organizes murder on a colossal scale. It punishes private theft, but itself lays unscrupulous hands on anything it wants, whether the property of citizen or of alien. There is, for example, no human right, natural or constitutional, that we have not seen nullified by the United States government. Of all the crimes that are committed for gain or revenge, there is not one that we have not seen it commit — murder, mayhem, arson, robbery, fraud, criminal collusion, and connivance. On the other hand, we have all remarked the enormous relative difficulty of getting the State to effect any measure for the general welfare. ” FULL ARTICLE

{ 40 comments }

Fundamentalist October 15, 2007 at 1:11 pm

Obviously, Nock is brilliant and I could agree with his complaints against people in government if he could have managed to distinguish between government and the actions of people in government. Government is a tool, like a gun; it can’t act without a person pulling the trigger. Condemning the institution of government because many people use it to commit murder or theft is no different from the left wanting to take away the guns of decent citizens because criminals use them to commit murder and theft. People can use gove for good, such as protecting property rights and defense against criminals and foreign powers, or they can use it for evil. The key to good government is to try to get good people in government positions and limit the damage that evil people can cause. But condemning the institution as evil because some people in positions of power act in an evil manner is also like condemning love because some people murder and steal in the name of love.

Kevin B October 15, 2007 at 2:26 pm

Fundamentalist,

A man cannot govern another man without violating the rights of the individual.

Carrying a weapon isn’t necessarily coercion, while governing other men is.

severin October 15, 2007 at 4:52 pm

Fundamentalist,
The difference between a gun and a government is that the mere creation of a government is an initiation of force on those to be governed. The mere creation of a gun is not an initiation of force in and of itself. You cannot use the government for good without committing the crimes you propose the government can protect us against. The person in the government system matters little as the institution is inherently corrupt. The only real choice is to limit the governments scope and influence in order to reduce the size and scope of its crimes.

Fundamentalist October 15, 2007 at 5:39 pm

severin:”You cannot use the government for good without committing the crimes you propose the government can protect us against.”

There are two arguments against government, 1) the practical one, which says that people in government often use government to do bad things, and 2) the moral/philosophical one, which is the anarchist position that government by definition is evil. But frequently on this site someone will start with the practical argument, as Nock does, and when someone who is not an anachist shows the fallacy in their logic, the anarchists quickly jump to the philosophical defense.

Nock argued from the practical side in this paper. He didn’t take the philosophical approach that government by anarchist definition is evil, as does Kevin who wrote “A man cannot govern another man without violating the rights of the individual” or severin who wrote “The person in the government system matters little as the institution is inherently corrupt.” So defenses of Nock should come from the practical side. Of course, no one could defend his arguments from the practical side, so you have no choice but to jump to the philosophical defense.

If government is evil by definition, why bother with all of the examples of government abuse? If government is evil by definition, then even the good that it appears to do is evil, too. Do you need the practical argument to bolster the philosophical one?

Fundamentalist October 15, 2007 at 5:43 pm

severin: “The only real choice is to limit the governments scope and influence in order to reduce the size and scope of its crimes.”

I agree that we need to limit the size and scope of government, not to limit its crimes, but to limit the crimes that people in power can commit. That was the whole idea of the writers of the Constitution. They believed that good people rule best, but no one can guarantee that good people will always be in power, so they tried to limit the damage that evil people could cause. Several of them even predicted the massive abuse of power we see today when people allow politicians to tear down the restraints on government that the writers of the Constitution set up.

James Redford October 15, 2007 at 7:00 pm

The fatal (literally!) flaw with all schemata of government is the unavoidable perverse incentives that result from their having a coercive regional monopoly over ultimate control of the law (i.e., on the courts and police, etc.), of which coercive legal monopoly is a feature of all governments.

It is here that we find why government’s incentive structure (i.e., the internal logic of the system) is such that government will strongly tend to maximize its revenue and growth to the detriment of the liberty, safety and prosperity of the mass of the populace. This is due to everyone’s inherent disutility of labor combined with government’s coercive legal monopoly which is not connected to services rendered. To assign government the task of protecting people’s just property is to assume a job for government which it is wholly unfit to do and which it was never intended for in the first place (being that the ancient origin of government is one tribe conquering another and then enslaving its people). A trespassing property-protector is a contradiction in terms. And having as it does a coercive monopoly on ultimate judicial decision, it will naturally tend to favor its own interests. If protection services were supplied on the free market then a business that is failing to provide said services to a customer’s satisfaction would lose that customer to another alternative. But since government enforces a monopoly on control of the law, there exists no alternative that people can easily resort to without bloodshed. Moveover, since people are mistaught by the government from birth that it exist to protect them they will naturally tend to look towards government for protection when danger to their person and property is viewed to increase–hence providing a strong incentive to government to actually increase the crime (including terrorism and war).

As well, a truly Utopian notion is the idea of a “limited” government. No government that is successful in maintaining its existence remains limited for long. The minarchists desire a “limited government,” but they cannot do away with the unavoidable incentive structure for it to become unlimited–constitutions after all are interpreted by the very government which they presume to limit.

For more on the inherent incentive structure (i.e., the internal logic of the system) of government which makes it wholly unfit for protection of just property and insures that it will tend toward ever greater levels of usurpation and rapine, see my below article:

“Government Causes the Crime,” James Redford, first published at Anti-State.com circa October 2001 http://www.geocities.com/vonchloride/govcause.html

Regarding political systems, if one gets the incentive structure wrong then no amount of good intentions can prevent perverse outcomes, since the incentives of the system are such as to reward actors who bring about those perverse outcomes. All the good intentions in the world are no match against perverse incentives.

Whereas if one gets the incentives right, then the incentives of the system are such as to reward actors who bring about good outcomes.

We often hear that “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” but this is a canard and a perverse result of the inherent incentive structure of government. So long as a coercive legal monopoly exists, then the unavoidable incentives for ever-greater levels of tyranny will exist, and no amount of tinkering with such a system can change that.

As Morris and Linda Tannehill put the matter in their excellent book, The Market for Liberty ([Lansing, Michigan: self-published, 1970] http://mises.org/books/marketforliberty.pdf , http://mises.org/daily/2220 ), pg. 37:

“”
It has been said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. But such vigilance is a constant non-productive expenditure of energy, and it is grossly unreasonable to expect men to keep expending their energy non-productively out of “unselfish idealism.” There is no area of the free market which requires the constant vigilance of the entire population to keep it from going awry. We would all be shocked and indignant if we were admonished to give such attentions to, say, the dairy industry in order to have our milk delivered unsour.
“”

The point is, that with services provided on the free market, the incentives are such as to reward actors who provide us with desired goods. We don’t even have to devote any thought to, e.g., the diary industry in order to have our milk.

For much more on this matter, below are some excellent articles concerning the nature of government, of liberty, and the free-market production of defense:

“The Anatomy of the State,” Prof. Murray N. Rothbard, Rampart Journal of Individualist Thought, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer 1965), pp. 1-24. Reprinted in a collection of some of Rothbard’s articles, Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays (Washington, D.C.: Libertarian Review Press, 1974) http://mises.org/easaran/chap3.asp

“Defense Services on the Free Market,” Prof. Murray N. Rothbard, Chapter 1 from Power and Market: Government and the Economy (Kansas City: Sheed Andrews and McMeel, Inc., 1977; originally published 1970) http://www.geocities.com/vonchloride/marketdefense.html
http://web.archive.org/web/20040720094416/http://mises.org/rothbard/power&market.pdf

“The Private Production of Defense,” Prof. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Winter 1998-1999), pp. 27-52 http://www.mises.net/journals/jls/14_1/14_1_2.pdf
http://mises.org/journals/scholar/Hoppe.pdf

“Fallacies of the Public Goods Theory and the Production of Security,” Prof. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Winter 1989), pp. 27-46 http://www.mises.net/journals/jls/9_1/9_1_2.pdf

“Police, Courts, and Laws–On the Market,” Chapter 29 from The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism, Prof. David D. Friedman (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Co., 1989; originally published 1971) http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Libertarian/Machinery_of_Freedom/MofF_Chapter_29.html

Concerning the ethics of human rights, the below book is the best book on the subject:

The Ethics of Liberty, Prof. Murray N. Rothbard (New York, New York: New York University Press, 1998; originally published 1982) http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/ethics.asp

If one desires a solid grounding in economics then one can do no better than with the below texts:

Economic Science and the Austrian Method, Prof. Hans-Hermann Hoppe (Auburn, Alabama: The Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1995) http://mises.org/esandtam.asp

The small book Economic Science and the Austrian Method by Prof. Hans-Hermann Hoppe doesn’t get into political theory, but only concerns the methodological basis of economics (i.e., the epistemology of economics). I would recommend that everyone read this short book *first* if they’re at all interested in economics. There exists much confusion as to what economics is and what it is not. This book is truly great in elucidating the nature of what economics is and and isn’t. If one were to read no other texts on economics, then this ought to be the one economic text that one reads. Plus it doesn’t take all that long to read it.

“Toward a Reconstruction of Utility and Welfare Economics,” Prof. Murray N. Rothbard, On Freedom and Free Enterprise: The Economics of Free Enterprise, Mary Sennholz, editor (Princeton, New Jersey: D. Van Nostrand, 1956), pp. 224-262. Reprinted in The Logic of Action One: Method, Money, and the Austrian School, Murray N. Rothbard (London, England: Edward Elgar, 1997), pp. 211-255 http://mises.org/rothbard/toward.pdf

Man, Economy, and State, Prof. Murray N. Rothbard (Auburn, Alabama: The Ludwig von Mises Institute, second edition, 2004; originally published 1962) http://mises.org/rothbard/mes.asp

Power and Market: Government and the Economy, Prof. Murray N. Rothbard (Kansas City: Sheed Andrews and McMeel, Inc., 1977; originally published 1970) http://web.archive.org/web/20040720094416/http://mises.org/rothbard/power&market.pdf

These texts ought to be read in the order listed above. I would also add to the above list the below book:

America’s Great Depression, Prof. Murray N. Rothbard (Auburn, Alabama: The Ludwig von Mises Institute, fifth edition, 2000; originally published 1963) http://mises.org/rothbard/agd.pdf

The above book concerns how the governments create depressions (i.e., nowadays called recessions) through credit expansion (i.e., fractional-reserve banking and/or fiat money).

Anthony October 15, 2007 at 7:38 pm

Very well put James. I agree fully. I will just add to your post by saying that one who is interested in method should also look into the following article:

http://www.veritasnoctis.net/docs/aristotelianapriorism.pdf

Fundatmentalist October 15, 2007 at 8:35 pm

james: “…government will strongly tend to maximize its revenue and growth…”

That is true of some types of government, but not all. A wide variety of governments exist. A republican form of government, such as ours, limits the personal gains that individuals in government can achieve. The founders understood this and tried to limit it. It’s not their fault that succeeding generations decided to break the law.

james: “To assign government the task of protecting people’s just property is to assume a job for government which it is wholly unfit to do and which it was never intended for in the first place…”

The merchants of the middle ages begged government to take over the job of protecting property. The merchants had been burdened with private security for centuries and found it very expensive and burdensome. It also wasn’t very effective because one man’s security firm was a band of thieves to another. When government took over security in the late middle ages, the size of markets and volume of trade expanded dramatically.

james:”…(being that the ancient origin of government is one tribe conquering another and then enslaving its people).”

That’s pure speculation. No one knows the origins of the first government because it was prehistory. Anyone could make up a plausible story about the origins of government if they have a fertile imagination.

james: “And having as it does a coercive monopoly on ultimate judicial decision, it will naturally tend to favor its own interests.”

That’s true, if you lack mechanisms that balance power, which our Constitution has.

james: “But since government enforces a monopoly on control of the law, there exists no alternative that people can easily resort to without bloodshed.”

Yes, there is an alternative–persuading voters to change.

james: “The minarchists desire a “limited government,” but they cannot do away with the unavoidable incentive structure for it to become unlimited–constitutions after all are interpreted by the very government which they presume to limit.”

Sure they can, and they have. The government of the Dutch Republic was so limited for about two centuries that many historians don’t consider it a real government. The US government was very limited by today’s standards until Hoover became president.

From a practical perspective, anarchists have a lot to overcome in history because the type of government you advocate has never existed exepted in isolated areas for limited periods of time, and even then, it didn’t survive. It’s easy to proclaim that you’re utopia will be perfect; socialists do it all the time. On paper, anything can look good. The difficulty is in the implementation. It’s easy to expose the weaknesses of our republican system because it has two hundred plus years of dirty laundry to hang out. Show me an anarchist state whose history we can examine in detail.

TLWP Sam October 15, 2007 at 8:37 pm

‘The guvmint has a territorial monopoly’.

Actually any private landowner has a legal monopoly and they free to use force against anyone on their property, especially to eject such persons. In the case of a monarchy, which I still see as a large-scale private landowning family (and I don’t care to argue if these families acquired their wealth unfairly) and therefore have their own free-market large-scale territorial monopoly over their land. They charge rent to would-be tenants who want to settle on the land and work it whilst at the same time providing basic rules of behaviour for which all tenants are expected to abide by. And, who knows, the owners may even provide a basic security force and army to go some way in making the tenants feel safe and not seek another land-owner (or at the very least not lose their landholdings to a violent imperialist landowner).

All-in-all even from a Libertarian a large-scale private landowner enjoys all the benefits of a government without having to feel obligated to provide the people on the land any more then they feel is required. It’s time like these that Libertarians must feel that they’re going to be primary landowners when the guvmint comes crumbing down (any ol’ day now apparently).

George Gaskell October 15, 2007 at 8:44 pm

If government is evil by definition, why bother with all of the examples of government abuse?

To enlighten, to inform, to help those who are less comfortable with abstract thought to understand.

If government is evil by definition, then even the good that it appears to do is evil, too.

Government is, in practice, typically funded by the evil of theft. It also consists of the assertion of a monopoly of the arbitration (and thus the use) of violence, which is inherently aggressive.

The “good that it appears to do” is, at best, a mimicry of the good that free individuals would do on their own.

Government tasks are either:
(a) something that a free society would not do, or
(b) something that a free society would have done anyway.

The first is always a form of evil. When government does the second, it accomplishes these tasks in a way that is, at best, sub-optimal. Government cannot accomplish these tasks more efficiently than a free society would, as proven by the Misesian Calculation Problem.

George Gaskell October 15, 2007 at 8:51 pm

The key to good government is to try to get good people in government positions

“Good government” is like “good slavery” or “good raping and pillaging.”

By their fruits, you shall know them.

As Hayek said, “Most people are still unwilling to face the most alarming lesson of modern history: that the greatest crimes of our time have been committed by governments that had the enthusiastic support of millions of people who were guided by moral impulses. It is simply not true that Hitler or Mussolini, Lenin or Stalin, appealed only to the worst instincts of their people: they also appealed to some of the feelings which also dominate contemporary democracies.”

Anthony October 15, 2007 at 10:36 pm

“Actually any private landowner has a legal monopoly and they free to use force against anyone on their property, especially to eject such persons.”

I see. Do private landowners assert rights over property they did not rightfully appropriate? If so, then they are acting as a government. If not, then your entire analogy is moot.

“It’s time like these that Libertarians must feel that they’re going to be primary landowners when the guvmint comes crumbing down (any ol’ day now apparently).”

Where does this lovely little non sequitur fit in?

TLWP Sam October 16, 2007 at 12:36 am

It could be very difficult to prove that most people genuinely own land, especially in the New World. You’d be hard pressed to find people who happily homesteaded vacant areas whereas in reality the vast majority of landholdings came from invasion and conquest. Even if you use the argument ‘it wasn’t my ancestors who invaded the land and pushed out the original people’ it is probably invalid as the newcomers still benefit from the work of the original invaders in a way that they wouldn’t get the land if the original folk weren’t willing to voluntarily trade away their land rights.

But still what if a monarchy are the descendants of a farming family who did good and bought up/homesteaded large areas? They would have a monopoly of a given area, get to make rules, enforce rules, charge rent, use their rental income to have a policing crew, maybe have some sort of standing army if the other landowners are rather impolite, and, ultimately, tell people if they don’t like it they move along to the next landowner or find their own patch of dirt to self-farm.

Anthony October 16, 2007 at 12:44 am

Rothbard has written on unjust acquisitions, but in that case I have no problem with redistribution.

In the unlikely event that everyone in that area decided to sell their land and lose all rights over it, sure, it is possible for that to happen – but in this case the owner will certainly not be telling others how they may dispose of property he does not own. Feudal monarchs were powerless enough, let alone this sort of individual.

nick gray October 16, 2007 at 1:27 am

James, and others, here in the southern colonies, the Aborigines did not have government as you define it- they had councils of elders as the government, male and female. Everyone could hope to live long enough to get grey hair, and become a part of the family council. They often had territorial disputes between tribes, but they did not have politicians who needed to pander to voters. This might have been the oldest form of government

DickF October 16, 2007 at 7:11 am

What bothers me about Nock is that he offers no solutions. He points out the problem them sulks back to his bedroom.

What is the solution? If as Nock implies there is no solution then we are all doomed, and as Fundamentalist notes we have no right or reason to criticize.

I do not believe the there is no solution. James Madison saw what Nock sees, the constant force of factions to attempt to rule the lives of others and to use the government for personal gain. His solution was to turn faction against faction, to create the greatest dissemination of power possible.

For our nation and time, then, we face a point made by Newt Gingrich in a speech this past week. We must not allow “crisis” to move us to surrender our liberties. Throughout our history men have used crisis to consolidate power. This we must resist.

TokyoTom October 16, 2007 at 8:10 am

I am with Fundamentalist here – government is a tool that man has devised in much the same way that we have devised or evolved and inherited any number of other institutuions.

We must of course acknowledge that government can be an exceptionally dangerous tool and be vigilant, either to ensure not to put that tool in the hands of idiots or self-interested cabals or to be on guard to limit the damage if and when such unfortunate circumstances arise.

We clearly need to do some serious thinking about how to manage the tool of government – and the thoughts of our founders is a good place to start.

But in any event, it seems to be a more productive avenue if we discuss control issues, rather than arguing about whether government must immediately be forced back into the Pandora’s box from which it sprang. Shall we try applying Prometheus’ fire instead?

George Gaskell October 16, 2007 at 8:59 am

government is a tool that man has devised

“Man” (i.e., mankind) did not devise government. Your use of the word “man” is an attempt to hide the fact that you are collectivizing people. “Man” does not act. Men do.

A better way to express this idea is that government is a mode of behavior that some specific men have engaged in. They do this for their own personal benefit, at the expense of everyone else.

Merely because the men who purport to govern claim that they speak for all mankind (or at least for all mankind that lives within their chosen territory) doesn’t mean that they actually do.

If government is a “tool,” then so is robbery. Is robbery a “tool”? If so, it is a tool that men devised to increase their wealth the easy way.

Government is as harmful economically as robbery, because it is robbery. It is an efficient, regularized form of robbery. It depends more on the unspoken threat of force than the overt display of force, but it is still robbery.

DickF October 16, 2007 at 9:11 am

TT and Fundamentalist,

Why do we have government?

For me the only reasonable purpost is to protect the individual, but then government itself violates the rights of the very individuals it is intended to protect.

Again, what Madison understood (Federalist 10)is that there would always be factions (even individuals) who would enslave others for their own gain. Usually this would mean imposing government on people. Recognizing this fact the only protection against government is to turn government against itself, faction against faction. What other solution is there?

Michael A. Clem October 16, 2007 at 9:15 am

I haven’t read the whole Nock article, but even in the excerpt, Nock says “The State claims and exercises the monopoly of crime…” Is that a “practical” argument? Would you say that govenrment can exist if it does not exercise this monopoly? Or that “good people” in government could operate it without excercising this monopoly?

TLWP Sam October 16, 2007 at 9:22 am

G. Gaskell, your style of argument makes me think of government as being reptilian humanoid aliens living amongst us as in V. Similarly it makes me wonder how many folks drawn to the notion of Libertarianism are those who believe themselves to be at the top of any pecking order in a way they hate taking orders but oh so love giving orders? Lew Rockwell admitted there are natural hierarchies even in free societies. Somehow I find it doubtful that many Libertarians foresee a time everyone is self-employed. Rather I’m sure many presume there will be the natural hierarchies where those at the top deserved to be there just as those at the bottom and presumably no one could complain about their existence as there’s no government to intervene and therefore where they are is perfectly natural.

Anthony October 16, 2007 at 9:26 am

Admitted? You make it sound as though he was on trial or something.

TLWP Sam October 16, 2007 at 9:54 am

On the other hand, who’s to say that ‘force and fraud’ aren’t one of many tools in many people’s toolbox? Different cultures have different views on what constitutes a crime and what doesn’t. Think about Western culture and terms such ‘non-white man’s rights’, ‘women’s rights’, ‘children rights’ and ‘animal rights’. It wasn’t too long ago that all of these perceived rights were the ideological preserve of the lefty do-gooder. I am reminded of the argument for making murder a serious crime because there’s no natural instict whereby people don’t go around killing one another. Similarly, there’s no natural instinct for people not to steal or lie. It’s little wonder that Nietzsche talked of how simpler life was when primitive humans didn’t have a sense of morality and they just did what came naturally.

George Gaskell October 16, 2007 at 10:46 am

G. Gaskell, your style of argument makes me think of government as being reptilian humanoid aliens living amongst us as in V.

No, they’re just people. Government is not a place, a set of buildings, or a body of writings. Government is a legal status — an assertion of the ability to act in ways that would otherwise be a crime.

The fact that many people subscribe to this delusion — that governmental force is somehow more legitimate than non-governmental force — doesn’t mean that the rest of us have to agree.

Similarly it makes me wonder how many folks drawn to the notion of Libertarianism are those who believe themselves to be at the top of any pecking order in a way they hate taking orders but oh so love giving orders? Lew Rockwell admitted there are natural hierarchies even in free societies.

Ah, ad hominem. Nice.

I don’t give orders. What makes an order different from a request? An order is an instruction that implies that a failure to comply will carry some form of punishment. It’s an instruction plus a threat. A request implies that the other party has the option to comply or not, as he sees fit, and thus implies that the requester will not attack the requestee if he refuses.

I certainly would never presume to give orders to anyone to who didn’t personally give prior consent to me to follow my orders.

The only organization I know of that assumes the general power to give orders to people who didn’t give prior consent to follow orders is … government. That’s its entire purpose and function.

Somehow I find it doubtful that many Libertarians foresee a time everyone is self-employed. Rather I’m sure many presume there will be the natural hierarchies where those at the top deserved to be there just as those at the bottom and presumably no one could complain about their existence as there’s no government to intervene and therefore where they are is perfectly natural.

I don’t subscribe to the quasi-feudal idea that employees are on the bottom and employers are on the top. I do not agree with the idea of master and servant. I believe in contracts — employer and employee are parties to a particular type of contract.

As with all contracts, both parties mutually benefit from the deal, or else they wouldn’t have entered the deal in the first place. The employer gets services, and the employee gets not only money, but gets his money at a fixed rate, and gets it well in advance of the realization of revenue from his services. This reduces the employee’s risk that he will work for no payment, or that his services will actually end up being worth less than he is paid for them. Many people voluntarily choose that kind of security to the uncertainties of entrepreneurship.

Different cultures have different views on what constitutes a crime and what doesn’t. Think about Western culture and terms such ‘non-white man’s rights’, ‘women’s rights’, ‘children rights’ and ‘animal rights’. It wasn’t too long ago that all of these perceived rights were the ideological preserve of the lefty do-gooder.

Please spare us the cultural relativism.

Besides, when exactly do you believe that the Left stopped subscribing to this line of special-rights thinking?

Fundamentalist October 16, 2007 at 12:31 pm

George: “As Hayek said, “Most people are still unwilling to face the most alarming lesson of modern history: that the greatest crimes of our time have been committed by governments that had the enthusiastic support of millions of people who were guided by moral impulses. It is simply not true that Hitler or Mussolini, Lenin or Stalin, appealed only to the worst instincts of their people: they also appealed to some of the feelings which also dominate contemporary democracies.”

I could’t agree more. But as you know, Hayek wasn’t an anarchist. He allowed for more gov intervention in the economy that I would. Hayek also warned against the false rationalization of the French enlightenment that allowed people to dismiss millenia-old human institutions simply because they didn’t fit into a particular syllogism. I think Rothbard has done what Hayek warned against when he came up with his own code of ethics based on a very limited view of property.

The writers of the Constitution were more aware of the evils that people in government can commit than we are today. They had suffered a great deal under bad government. So how did we get into the current mess? Not because government has a life of its own outside of the people who fill positions, but because the libertarians of the 19th century failed to stop the growing popularity of socialism. As a result, the people demanded more socialism and government officials gave it to them. Both were violating the Constitution, but few people were left to defend it.

Criminal minds use the apparatus of government to commit their crimes by bribing corrupt officials, but abolishing government won’t eliminate criminals. They’ll simply find other people to corrupt, such as judges and private law enforcement agencies in an anarchist society.

James Redford October 16, 2007 at 2:22 pm

Fundatmentalist, you wrote on October 15, 2007 8:35 PM:

“”
james: “…government will strongly tend to maximize its revenue and growth…”

That is true of some types of government, but not all. A wide variety of governments exist. A republican form of government, such as ours, limits the personal gains that individuals in government can achieve. The founders understood this and tried to limit it. It’s not their fault that succeeding generations decided to break the law.
“”

First of all, Fundatmentalist, why are you not capitalizing my name? I see you have no problems capitalizing your sentences, as well as your own nom de plume.

Continuing:

No, rather it’s true of every institution, government or not, i.e., it’s a *tendency*, an exceedingly strong one: if said organization is headed up by someone who can maintain their power and who resists the temptations, then the organization need not necessarily succumb to devolution; but the more powerful the organization is, the more powerful will be the forces which seek to use it for their own gain. A democracy cannot possibly stand against such forces, for the gain of liberty is a general gain which benefits no one in particular, yet getting particular power over a government can benifit one (and one’s friend) enormously; whereas the effect that a mere voter can have is so minimal as to be of no practical importance. Such is not changed if we posit lobbyist organizations (supposedly) on behalf of the common mass of voters, since in that case the effect of each individual citizen on said lobbies is minimal.

The reason that tendency is so lethal when it comes to government is because government has a regional monopoly on ultimate control over the law. Hence, any power it gains is at the expense of the power of the common mass of individuals in society, making the usurpations and rapine of the government all the more impune.

If protection of just property were provided on a free market, then even if a particular private protection agency went totally criminal it would still not have the effect of gaining for its controllers what a government is capable of, since it doesn’t actually control society as such, but is merely a very small part of society; one which doesn’t possess any power which any other member of society does not also have available.

Nor would it have the indoctrination of nearly the whole country to aide it against criticisms, as all governments which have been able to maintain themselves for a long enough period have (i.e., long enough to inculcate the citizenry as to the proclaimed benefits of their rule).

Such a private protection agency would be seen by the common mass of people for what it is: a criminal band which must be brought down. And bringing it down would be easy, given that it doesn’t possess any power which the other private protection agencies, and indeed the individuals of the society, don’t have. It would be open season for the masses on all the employees and supporters of such a rogue agency.

That’s why we say the incentives are right with free-market anarchism, yet cannot possibly be right with any schemata of government.

Free-market anarchism distributes the power of “authority” to each individual. No organization possesses a right which any common individual does not possess. Indeed, the very notion of such (which all governments are predicated upon) is irreconcilably illogical. If individuals do not properly possess a certain right, then adding them up into a group cannot derive any said right (since 0+0 = 0).

But so also, in addition to the above points I raised (and they a devistating points, whether one prefers to regard them as such or not), is that it wouldn’t even be in the interest of particular members of society, or a certain group in soceity, to try and take over such a private protection agency. As I’ve just detailed, at most they would only get hold on a small influence over society, while inciting the wrath of the rest of society. Getting hold over a particular private protection agency would not be getting hold over a country or nation, least of all their *minds*, of which is the most critical of all.

“”
james: “To assign government the task of protecting people’s just property is to assume a job for government which it is wholly unfit to do and which it was never intended for in the first place…”

The merchants of the middle ages begged government to take over the job of protecting property. The merchants had been burdened with private security for centuries and found it very expensive and burdensome. It also wasn’t very effective because one man’s security firm was a band of thieves to another. When government took over security in the late middle ages, the size of markets and volume of trade expanded dramatically.
“”

Please cite your references for that.

But businesses lobbying government to do things for them which (1) shouldn’t be done in the first place (such as a central bank, mercantilist pertnerships with government, etc.), or (2) relieve the costs of an activity for said business by distributing it upon the taxpayers, certainly makes up a large part of the growth and centralization of government.

“”
james:”…(being that the ancient origin of government is one tribe conquering another and then enslaving its people).”

That’s pure speculation. No one knows the origins of the first government because it was prehistory. Anyone could make up a plausible story about the origins of government if they have a fertile imagination.
“”

Not so, as we have histories of government going back thousands of years. As well, the “social contract” theories of government’s origin are not at all plausible, as they posit a theoretical origin of government which has never been observed and which violates the very understanding of how large groups of people operate. For more on that, see Lysander Spooner, “No Treason No. VI: The Constitution of no Authority” (1870) http://praxeology.net/LS-NT-6.htm .

“”
james: “And having as it does a coercive monopoly on ultimate judicial decision, it will naturally tend to favor its own interests.”

That’s true, if you lack mechanisms that balance power, which our Constitution has.
“”

Then you here just prove my point, and in spades. You say the U.S. Constitution has these mechanisms, yet since the very inception of the U.S. government it’s been quite clear that the Constitution has failed to keep the U.S. government in check.

Currently the U.S. Constitution has been (under color of law) quite literally *absolutely and totally abolished* via recently innacted laws.

When I say that, I’m not speaking hyperbole in the slightest. Quite truly and literally, under the present laws (i.e., color of law) there exists absolutely no such thing as any human right for any U.S. citizen.

Under Public Law 107-56 (October 26, 2001), Public Law 107-40 (September 18, 2001), the November 13, 2001 Presidential Military Order, and Public Law No. 109-366, 120 Stat. 2600 (October 17, 2006), any U.S. citizen (and also non-U.S. citizen) can quite literally be secretly imprisoned at any time, for any amount of time, with no evidence of any crime required; they can be tortured; and they can be executed in secret. All done quite “legally” (i.e., under color of law). All of which laws violate the Bill of Rights (i.e., Amendments) to the U.S. Constitution, since no Amendment had been passed nullifying these rights.

In the below post by me, I provide massive amounts of documentation wherein the U.S. government itself admits it is holding innocent people indefinitely without charges (including children and U.S. citizens), torturing them, raping them–including homosexually anally raping them–and murdering them, and that the orders to do so came from the highest levels of the U.S. government:

“Crushing Children’s Testicles: Welcome to the New Freedom,” TetrahedronOmega, August 12, 2006 http://www.armleg.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=59&mforum=libertyandtruth

See also:

“Epidemic Of Police Brutality Sweeps America,” Prison Planet.com http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/september2007/210907_b_brutality.htm

“2 Audio/Video-Recorded Cases of Police Brutality which Should Be on the Archive,” James Redford, September 28, 2007 http://forum.prisonplanet.com/index.php?topic=8260

“”
james: “But since government enforces a monopoly on control of the law, there exists no alternative that people can easily resort to without bloodshed.”

Yes, there is an alternative–persuading voters to change.
“”

Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch, and the purest form of democracy in action is the lynch mob.

Beyond that, if political voting could truly change anything then it would be made illegal.

Government, whatever its de jure status, strongly tends toward oligarchy. The bigger the government the stronger this tendency will be, since then the stakes of exercising a disproportionate influence over government policy is raised (as big government has the ability to, e.g., make or break business fortunes via its policies and how it chooses to enforce them). That is true every bit as much for formal democracies. Consequenty, under government, the strong inclination is a winnowing effect whereby those who rise to the top of the private sector and the government sector are those who are willing to “play along to get along,” i.e., amenable to supporting the furtherance of the political establishment’s power.

Such applies to media outlets and universities, as well; which, when combined with the government’s own schooling and propaganda, inculcates the largest part of individuals’ Weltanschauung from cradle to grave: the contents of that worldview being rather thoroughgoing, if muddleheaded and hodgepodge, forms of etatism, accompanying a high degree of political naïveté which such a position implies. Hence, the very intellectual tools which are prerequisite for sustaining an effective defense of liberty are absent most people.

So also due to that effect of winnowing, there tends to be a confluence of ideology at the top level, for accrument of power becomes its own purpose as the government moves toward its logical conclusion: the total state, and all the horrors that come with it. Distinctions such as Democrat and Republican, “liberal” and conservative, etc., are useful for providing hoi polloi with innocuous distractions, but they mean little at the top echelon.

The process of tendency toward oligarchy I’ve outlined above is intrinsic to government due to the inherent, perverse incentive structures which obtain under government (i.e., the internal logic of the system). Ultimately it doesn’t matter how pure and good the intentions are of the people who set up the government, nor what type of government is nominally instituted: so long as the defining feature of government exists–that of a regional monopoly on ultimate control over the law–then this process cannot be avoided, since the inherent incentives of the system are such as to reward actors who bring about such outcomes (being that one who is able to inordinately influence the policies of a government can use that influence for his personal benefit and that of his friends, whereas liberty for society is a general benefit which accrues to no one in particular). All the good intentions in the world are no match against perverse incentives.

“”
james: “The minarchists desire a “limited government,” but they cannot do away with the unavoidable incentive structure for it to become unlimited–constitutions after all are interpreted by the very government which they presume to limit.”

Sure they can, and they have. The government of the Dutch Republic was so limited for about two centuries that many historians don’t consider it a real government. …
“”

Well, since you’re the one that made that point, I’ll simply mention that it’s an odd point to make given your position (regarding “many historians don’t consider it a real government”), since it reinforces what I’ve been saying.

“”
… The US government was very limited by today’s standards until Hoover became president.
“”

I wouldn’t call the government under President Abraham Lincoln “limited,” given that he managed to kill some 970,000 Americans.

“”
From a practical perspective, anarchists have a lot to overcome in history because the type of government you advocate has never existed exepted in isolated areas for limited periods of time, and even then, it didn’t survive. It’s easy to proclaim that you’re utopia will be perfect; socialists do it all the time. On paper, anything can look good. The difficulty is in the implementation. It’s easy to expose the weaknesses of our republican system because it has two hundred plus years of dirty laundry to hang out. Show me an anarchist state whose history we can examine in detail.
“”

It’s not the case that anything on paper can look good. Sure, it can “look good” if one doesn’t bother to logically analyze it in depth (since in that case, one is simply looking at the promises, and not the incentives, means and necessary information to bring about those promises). But since existence is conformal with logic, right theory will necessarily match reality.

But there is another logical flaw in your above statement. Even if I were to grant the truth regarding your claims on the historicity of free-market anarchism, your criticism thereby would still not make sense. Merely because things have always been done a certain way (from the viewpoint of one’s knowledge) doesn’t mean that that way is the best way or even a good way.

Many ancient pagan societies were predicated upon human sacrifice. The members of those societies, as far as they knew, often thought that such was the only way to keep society functioning. If one could go back in time and point out to them that sacrificing their children wasn’t necessary, then one would have met with objections that this is how it’s always been, and that all the other nations which they have knowledge of do the same. A person advancing such a notion would merely be a bizarre theorizer who speaks whereof he knows not.

greg October 16, 2007 at 2:33 pm


“Government is a tool, like a gun; it can’t act without a person pulling the trigger.”

That is a very lame analogy. A gun does not grow and collect power by the very nature of its construction. You’ve been watching too many Transformer movies.

It is embedded in the very structural nature of government to grow (and thus collect power), rolling over everything in its path like a juggernaut. For example, the Articles of Confederation defined about as weak a government as could be imagined. Those sent to the constitutional convention exceeded their commission (no surprise) in producing the Constitution, which also proved itself to be nothing but a parchment barrier. If the Articles of Confederation didn’t chain and hold back the growth of government, what possibly could? It is hard to imagine a weaker government than that. Look what happened.

The most basic problem with government is not getting good people to run it, but rather the very structure of it. Well intentioned people can pave the road to hell for the next tyrant to come along, even if they don’t take “us” down the road to hell themselves. The problem is structural and there seems to be nothing that can be done about it. It is in the very nature of the beast.

George Gaskell October 16, 2007 at 2:38 pm

The writers of the Constitution were more aware of the evils that people in government can commit than we are today.

I disagree. I agree with Hoppe’s thesis that monarchies, while not to be desired, tend to provide more economic liberty than democracies. Our tax (i.e., governmental theft) burden is far greater than at any point in the American colonial period. The existence of an income tax. A wealth tax upon death. And let’s not forget the Federal Reserve. The extent of economic infringement through regulation is infinitely greater than the late 18th century.

The Second War of Independence killed something like 600,000 Americans. The wars of the 20th century. The mass murders of the communist and fascist regimes numbering in the 8-figure range. All make the Stamp Act and the Sugar Act look like child’s play.

Fundatmentalist October 16, 2007 at 6:42 pm

James: “why are you not capitalizing my name? I see you have no problems capitalizing your sentences, as well as your own nom de plume.

Is someone’s ego a little fragile? I simply thought you spelled it that way after a quick glance.

James: “…even if a particular private protection agency went totally criminal it would still not have the effect of gaining for its controllers what a government is capable of…”

In the first place, the only way an anarchist society will work is if everyone in that society believes anarchist principles. That fact alone will limit the possibility of anarchism to very small societies. If the majority of people in an anarchist society start believing socialism, that’s the end of your anarchist society. They will overthrow the private security companies and private courts and create a socialist government. The same thing happened to the US. The majority quit believing in freedom and chose socialism. It would have happened even if the US had been an arnarchy the first century. The people make the government; the government doesn’t make the people. If the US currently had a majority of people who were libertarian, we could shrink the power of government down to what the Constitution intended.

James: “Indeed, the very notion of such (which all governments are predicated upon) is irreconcilably illogical.”

I realize that anarchists have repeated that mantra so often that they actually believe it, but natural law writers from Aquinas to Smith found equally logical and compelling arguments for government.

Fundamentalist: “The merchants of the middle ages begged government to take over the job of protecting property…”
James:”The merchants of the middle ages begged government to take over the job of protecting property.”

Any good work on economics of the middle ages will do. Braudel is pretty good.

James:”The merchants of the middle ages begged government to take over the job of protecting property.”

Government began in prehistory. If you have records of that, you’re pretty clever.

James: “…the Constitution has failed to keep the U.S. government in check.”

I agree. Some of the founders predicted it. They knew that freedom requires self-control and vigilance. As I wrote above, an anarchist society would be no stronger against a society that had converted to socialism.

James: “But since existence is conformal with logic, right theory will necessarily match reality.”

That’s the kind of rationalization that socialists use, and which Hayek warns against in “Fatal Conceit.”

How are you going to instantiate an anarchist society? By persuading enough people of the evils of government and benefits of freedom, right? If at some point you convince enough people in the US to abandon government, I’ll be willing to give it a try. My goals are much more modest; I’d like to see the Constitution respected once again. I’ll continue to point out the evils that people commit with governmental power and the benefits of freedom, but labeling government as theft and murder just goes beyond reason.

Fundatmentalist October 16, 2007 at 6:57 pm

greg: “A gun does not grow and collect power by the very nature of its construction.”

I didn’t realize that you believe in the spontaneous generation of life. Government can’t grow and collect power unless it is a living thing. Can we kill it with guns and knives, or do we need nukes?

The point of the illustration was that government is an inanimate object, like a gun. People use government for good and bad, just a people use guns for good and bad.

George: “…monarchies, while not to be desired, tend to provide more economic liberty than democracies.”

That’s what Hoppe writes. But a Dutch writer Peter de la Court, writing in the 17th century, described how people lived under monarchs. The nobility would bribe the judges and sheriffs to invent charges against someone whose property they wanted to steal. The sheriff would arrest the innocent person, the judge find him guilty and sentence him to death or life in prison and the nobility would take his property. De la Court claims such things were common before the creation of the Dutch Republic.

Hoppe patterns his argument after the so-called bandit-king analogy, where a bandit figures our that he can earn more from taxation by protecting his victims than he can by robbing them. But Douglass North points out that that is a simplistic analogy. Throughout history, monarchs favored certain groups with limited property rights, usually the nobility, in order to buy their loyalty, but allowed the nobility to rape and pillage the rest of the population, just as de la Court wrote.

Also, Hoppe seems to base his views of monarchy on those monarchies in Western Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. But those monarchs make up such a small portion of all monarchs in the world throughout history that it’s silly to base any broad theory on them alone. In addition, those monarchs in Western Europe during those centuries were heavily influenced by anti-monarchy movements.

Anthony October 16, 2007 at 7:07 pm

“Similarly, there’s no natural instinct for people not to steal”

There isn’t?

greg October 16, 2007 at 7:13 pm


I didn’t realize that you believe in the spontaneous generation of life. Government can’t grow and collect power unless it is a living thing. Can we kill it with guns and knives, or do we need nukes?


The point of the illustration was that government is an inanimate object, like a gun. People use government for good and bad, just a people use guns for good and bad.

Oh, now I get it. You are saying government is not composed of living people in a particular sort of social arrangement. Who knew?


My goals are much more modest; I’d like to see the Constitution respected once again.

I guess by implication you’re saying it was respected at one time. The hole-punching began immediately after it was ratified. In addition, your goals hardly seem modest.

Paul Edwards October 16, 2007 at 7:19 pm

Roger,

It’s good to chat with you again (i assume that’s you).

“but labeling government as theft and murder just goes beyond reason.”

Before, i take a swing at justifying such labels, i wonder if i could just check to see what you understand to be our argument in favor of this position. Do you understand why the anarchist characterizes taxation as theft? Can you loosely repeat such an argument here and perhaps indicate where you think the reasoning is flawed?

Fundatmentalist October 16, 2007 at 8:29 pm

greg: “You are saying government is not composed of living people in a particular sort of social arrangement. Who knew?”

Seriously, what do you mean to say when you write that governments “…grow and collect power by the very nature of its construction’? We seem to agree that the state is an institution filled with human beings. So how does the state, using it as shorthand for the people in government, commit some of the horrible crimes that it does commit? People have to commit those crimes. Anarchists seem to argue that the power inherent in the institution is so overwhelming that no human being can resist it and that it turns normal people into monsters.

I would argue that political power changes people very little. If they’re monsters in office, they were probably monsters before. That’s how the writers of the Constitution understood people. So they designed a government that would limit the damage such monsters could cause if, and this is the big caveat, the people who voted would do their job and vote for the best people possible. A vote of the majority is the best way to keep monsters out of government office because it’s more difficult to fool a large number of people. But if the people go bad by ingesting a poisonous philosophy like socialism, there is nothing to stop people in power from tearing apart the whole mechanism.

Fundamentalist October 16, 2007 at 8:38 pm

Paul: “Do you understand why the anarchist characterizes taxation as theft?”

Yes, I’m RogerM. I like Fundamentalist because I’m a fundamentalist on economics (Austrian), freedom, science, investing and religion.

Briefly, anarchism makes property an absolute. As an absolute, it follows that taxation is theft. I follow the natural law writers who made property sacred, but not absolute; the preservation of life is more important. I don’t agree that anarchists have the right to make property absolute. Neither is it a logical necessity; making property absolute is arbitrary; you could choose anything and make it absolute. Socialists make the “common good” the absolute in their logical scheme. Since government contributes to the preservation of property and life, through police work and external defense, government is good for humanity. Mises, but especially Hayek, agreed with this.

James Redford October 16, 2007 at 10:09 pm

“”
James: “why are you not capitalizing my name? I see you have no problems capitalizing your sentences, as well as your own nom de plume.

Is someone’s ego a little fragile? I simply thought you spelled it that way after a quick glance.
“”

No, my ego could only be outweighed by those who presume to take on the mantle of government without the fervent intent to dismantle it (of which exception, should such ever come about, would likely be a death sentence, given the multivarious parties whose interests it would be in maintaining the status quo).

Rather, I’m merely an observant fellow, as regards why I spotted that.

And that’s your problem: cusory examination.

“”
James: “…even if a particular private protection agency went totally criminal it would still not have the effect of gaining for its controllers what a government is capable of…”

In the first place, the only way an anarchist society will work is if everyone in that society believes anarchist principles. That fact alone will limit the possibility of anarchism to very small societies. If the majority of people in an anarchist society start believing socialism, that’s the end of your anarchist society. They will overthrow the private security companies and private courts and create a socialist government. The same thing happened to the US. The majority quit believing in freedom and chose socialism. It would have happened even if the US had been an arnarchy the first century. The people make the government; the government doesn’t make the people. If the US currently had a majority of people who were libertarian, we could shrink the power of government down to what the Constitution intended.
“”

Not so. The incentives are such of the free-market anarchist society that it tends toward ever more pure liberty, whatever the beliefs of those in the society may be (which in turn affects their beliefs to purer liberty).

Sure, if the great mass of society were violenty against freedom then it likely wouldn’t last long. But then no governmental organization would stand against such opposition were it to concern being against that structure.

Rather, all the free-market anarchist society requires to function is radical decentralization. So long as enough people at least slightly grasp that there is no White Knight in the form of mortal man who is coming to save them (since there never has been), and that they really are on their own (as they always have been), then that alone is enough. It doesn’t require the dissemination of any particular ideology: all it requires is that enough people in society grasp–at least in enough measure, however slight–the plain reality of human existance as it has always been.

Once that has been grasped, then the rest works itself out: since in a system of free-market defense, punishment of victimless “crimes” is a cost to those who hold such a viewpoint (i.e., the desire to punish such people), since violating such “crimes” has no particular identifiable victim, and hence no common person would be getting “restitution” in punishing them. Of course, one could posit that a private protection agency extorts from, say, druggies, and hence attempts to turn a profit for itself. But our concepts of that type of victimless-”crime” system comes from government, which is happy to imprison people even if it is a net tax burdern (as it almost always is), since after all, it still gets tax-revenue from the deal either way (nay, the more it can convince the masses as to the scariness of society, the more taxes it can extort; hence it will search for “crimes” and boogeymen wherever they can be invented).

But there is a fundamental difference between actual crimes and victimless “crimes” which seperates these categories economically: actual crimes have actual victims who report the crime and seek redress (or their heirs may report and seek such, in the case of incapacitation or fatality). Whereas a typical victimless “crime” need only involve two mutually concenting parties–indeed, even less, for a victimless “crime” could involve a party of one. Hence, any even half-way attempt to “crack down” on victimless “crimes” must needs involve an extensive surveillance and snitch network, of which costs an extrodinary amount of money while having no designs of recompense to a victim as its goal, or even designs of extracting out of the victimless “criminals” as much money as was put into the effort.

Yet a private protection agency could only exist due to the voluntary payments of its customers (otherwise it would cease being a private protection agency and instead be a government). Consequently, said customers would be stuck paying the costs of enforcing laws which violate people’s rights (i.e., victimless “crimes”), while getting nothing in return.

Hence, a pure understanding of liberty actually isn’t required for a free-market anarchist society to smoothly function. The incentives are such that people’s ideologies will work themselves out, with the the tendency toward ever greater and purer liberty.

The only thing that a free society requires is that enough people get over the notion (at least get over it to a sufficient degree) that there is a Great Protector, a Great Parental Figure–in the form of government–looking out for them.

The desire there stems from doubtful man, failing in trust, to make for himself God on Earth. He seeks a Savior, and the Savior he makes for himself is all too happy to present itself as the Savior of Mankind. Yet government, throughout all of recorded history, has been the most methodical and efficient human-meat grinder to ever exist. It is a purely Satanical machination masquerading as humanity’s salvation, but has always been–and forever will be so long as it exists–the scourge of mankind and our decline.

“”
James: “Indeed, the very notion of such (which all governments are predicated upon) is irreconcilably illogical.”

I realize that anarchists have repeated that mantra so often that they actually believe it, but natural law writers from Aquinas to Smith found equally logical and compelling arguments for government.
“”

“[E]qually logical and compelling arguments”? Well, thank you, Fundatmentalist, it’s nice to know I’m on par with Aquinas in your estimation on this subject.

“”
Fundamentalist: “The merchants of the middle ages begged government to take over the job of protecting property…”
James:”The merchants of the middle ages begged government to take over the job of protecting property.”

Any good work on economics of the middle ages will do. Braudel is pretty good.

James:”The merchants of the middle ages begged government to take over the job of protecting property.”

Government began in prehistory. If you have records of that, you’re pretty clever.

James: “…the Constitution has failed to keep the U.S. government in check.”

I agree. Some of the founders predicted it. They knew that freedom requires self-control and vigilance. As I wrote above, an anarchist society would be no stronger against a society that had converted to socialism.

James: “But since existence is conformal with logic, right theory will necessarily match reality.”

That’s the kind of rationalization that socialists use, and which Hayek warns against in “Fatal Conceit.”

How are you going to instantiate an anarchist society? By persuading enough people of the evils of government and benefits of freedom, right? If at some point you convince enough people in the US to abandon government, I’ll be willing to give it a try. My goals are much more modest; I’d like to see the Constitution respected once again. I’ll continue to point out the evils that people commit with governmental power and the benefits of freedom, but labeling government as theft and murder just goes beyond reason.
“”

The U.S. Constition wasn’t respected to begin with. See the Shays’ Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion, both of which concerned the extraction of taxes from the commners by the government for the repayment of loans which the higher gentry had entered into for the Revolutionary War, but which loans the common mass had never been consulted on or gave their approval. But nevertheless, with violence they were made to repay them, even though they had never been a party to them.

Given how many commoner Americans had given their *very lives* to create this nation, one might think that a well-to-do person could survive without being repaid their Revolutionary loans (or, holding those responsible for repayment who had actually agreed to the loans). But then, this gets back to the very incentive structure of government, and who are the actual controlling forces which pull the strings of government. It wasn’t the common mass holding the reins of government then, and neither is it now.

Fundamentalist October 16, 2007 at 10:41 pm

James: “So long as enough people at least slightly grasp that there is no White Knight in the form of mortal man who is coming to save them …then that alone is enough.”

Good luck with that. If we could convince the American people of that, we could have the perfect government. But then if the majority of Americans believed that, they would never have voted for socialism in the first place, would they? Most Americans are outright socialists; the rest are socialist sympathizers. They believe that only the government can save them from capitalists.

James: “The U.S. Constition wasn’t respected to begin with. See the Shays’ Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion, both of which concerned the extraction of taxes from the commners by the government for the repayment of loans which the higher gentry had entered into for the Revolutionary War, but which loans the common mass had never been consulted on or gave their approval. But nevertheless, with violence they were made to repay them, even though they had never been a party to them.”

There never has been a society where the population was unanimous in their agreement on anything. It’s ridiculous to point to a few disgruntled people as proof of failure. The common people were consulted on war and had their chance to object to the war through their elected representatives. Common people weren’t consulted on the loans because this isn’t a direct democracy; it’s a republic for very good reasons.

The loans for the war came from the Dutch and French. I agree that when the states refused to pay for the war they started, Washington should have resigned and ended the rebellion. But the leaders whom the majority of voters elected chose to borrow the money. Those who opposed the war apparently were in the minority, but they still have to pay taxes to repay the war loans because they share in the benefits of the government and want to continue to have a vote. If states have a right to exist, then the must have the right to tax or they could not exist.

TokyoTom October 17, 2007 at 2:45 am

Roger/Fundamentalist:

I basically agree with your view of the state, but wonder about this: “Most Americans are outright socialists; the rest are socialist sympathizers. They believe that only the government can save them from capitalists.”

Do you think Jefferson was wrong when he urged:
“I hope we shall crush … in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.
–Thomas Jefferson to George Logan, 1816.
http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff5.htm

The concentrated wealth and long lives of corporations have long made them a special and powerful class of rent-seekers, eliminating liability for shareholders and vanquishing restrictions on life and acceptable business activities. Are citizens wrong to seek to counterbalance corporations, using in part the very tool of government that corporations have effectively seized?

George Gaskell October 17, 2007 at 8:53 am

Are citizens wrong to seek to counterbalance corporations, using in part the very tool of government that corporations have effectively seized?

Yes. If it is wrong for corporations to “seize the tool” of government, then it is wrong for others to do the same.

It is certainly understandable that they want to seize it — government provides special benefits that, by definition, you cannot get anywhere else. But that doesn’t make it right.

Fundamentalist October 17, 2007 at 11:08 am

TT: “The concentrated wealth and long lives of corporations have long made them a special and powerful class of rent-seekers, eliminating liability for shareholders and vanquishing restrictions on life and acceptable business activities.”

I’m not sure why Jefferson opposed corporations, except that in his day corporations usually got monopolies on trade from the government. The answer to that problem would be to limit the government’s ability to issue monopolies, not destroy corporations.

Anarchists oppose corps because the gov creates them and anything the gov does is evil. Socialists oppose corps because they think they have too much power. I support the institution of government while recognizing the evil it can cause if not limited, as did Mises and Hayek. I support the idea of corps while recognizing that they can cause a lot of damage by joining with gov to get special treatment. Archer Daniels Midland is a perfect example of a corp doing bad things. ADM makes a fortune from ag subsidies, especially ethanol, while bribing legislators to limit the import of cheaper sugar in order to force Americans to buy their corn fructose sweetener. But again, the problem is not with the idea of corps, but with the fact that the government gives special treatment to some corps.

I don’t think the long life and concentrated wealth of corps is a problem. The wealth isn’t as concentrated as it seems, because most corps are owned by a large number of stockholders. I don’t see why long life would be a problem. Corps aren’t rent seekers because they are large and have a long life, but because they bribe politicians to pass laws favoring them. Limited government, enforcement of the law and voters who paid attention would solve that.

I don’t have a problem with limited liability for shareholders because they don’t take part in running the business of the corp, while limited liability increases the liquidity of investments. If the people who manage a corp commit crimes, they, and not the shareholders, should be responsible. If the corp suffers financially for the misdeeds of management, shareholders suffer, too. Just ask Enron shareholders. So the limited liability isn’t absolute.

The concept of the corp makes sense to me. Certain business activities require large amounts of money. At the same time, investors want to diversify among several investments. If passive investors were held liable for the decisions of management, no one would invest in corps. As a result, businesses would remain small and be unable to accomplish many of the good things that corporations do.

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