I have yet to find a rational argumentation based on libertarian ethics which contradicts the published positions of Ayn Rand. Most discussions which represent themselves as such invariably misrepresent Ayn Rand. Such is the case with Mr. D'Aureous' effort. (Jan- Feb)
Perhaps the most evident example in his attempt to assign the concept of an "average" time limit to Miss Rand; immediately after quoting her assertion that the "time limit (not plural) has to be determined by the principle of defining and protecting all the individual rights involved." (the individual rights of a single inventor and all individual innovators).
Despite the rather peculiar remark that "complexity…suggested…fallacious premises.", Mr. D'Aureous fails to consider that premise; that is, simply that "The subject of patents…is intellectual property." Instead, he asserts that "durable economic goods: diamonds, land…" are "data." He fails to consider Rand's distinction between a discovery and an invention.
Aside from distortion, D'Aureous fails to consider the character of sovereignty (raised in Alpha & Beta), or the impact of competition between "data banks." (Perhaps the state should give a single data bank the monopoly on judgement?)
The most amusing aspect of the article was his consistent effort to justify his position on the basis of the "laws of human action." The master of the study of human action (praxeology), Ludwig Von Mises, takes a dim view of Mr. D'Aureous's position:
"It (catallactics) has merely to stress the point that this is a problem of the delimitation of property rights and that with the abolition of patents…inventors would for the most part be producers of external economies." (high-scarcity material goods)
"It is very probable that technological progress would be seriously retarded if, for the inventor and for those who defray the expenses incurred by his experimentation, the results obtained were nothing but external economies." [My own emphasis] ("Human Action," p. 662).
Mr. Von Mises might also comment on the Grey vs. Bell example:
"People look askance at them (patents) and deem them irregular…(as)…a vestige of the rudimentary period of their evolution when legal protection was accorded to…inventors only by virtue of an exceptional privilege granted by the authorities." (Ibid.)
Clearly, Mr. D'Aureous has no support on the basis of the "laws of human action," nor on the rational application of Objectivism.
ANIMAL FARM 1970
An excellent article. And I'll accept your invitation for suggestions on how to "disarm the violent…and win over the non-violent."
Most of the violent left are cowards—their only "courage" lies in the hysterics of the mob. So, eliminate the mob—by winning over the vast majority (even of the far-left) who are nonviolent. The way to win the nonviolent is to disarm them intellectually. I might note here that everybody considered their actions, in some sense, moral; including the violent leftists. The secret is that most, if not all, of the leftists also consider their position rational! This illusion has been perpetuated by the nearly universal acceptance of the statist and collectivist premises.
My suggestion does require a bit of courage, intelligence and boldness: Approach a familiar leftist (in person) and state your case: "I am an individual, Capitalist Libertarian. I think my ideas are right and yours are wrong. Furthermore, I think I can prove it." At this point you are bound to be challenged (by a group you might be heckled). Don't argue, but accept the challenge—and then some: "I'm willing to meet you and your friends any place you want—for a civil discussion. If you can convince me that my ideas are wrong and yours are right, I'll join your group and spend 8 hours a day (or whatever) working for your cause." This can, and must, be a sincere statement. It, of course, provides him with an incentive and motive for getting the group to agree.
But, (before he runs away to re-type his membership rolls) add one condition: "However, the offer is only good if the discussion is on the basis of logic; not slogans or platitudes." If he agrees to that, he has thrown away his only weapon (knowingly or unknowingly): emotion. From there on, it's a battle of minds, the Objectivist battleground!
A few more strategic notes might be helpful on the "battleground": Your prime offensive weapon is logic. Your prime defensive weapon is honesty. Rather than compromise or capitulate, admit ignorance and assure them that you'll have the answer at the next meeting—then be there! By being courteous, persistent and consistent you can dominate every meeting from then on. No "revolutionary" could put up with such a state of affairs, and you are likely to be challenged in your absence. However, if your performance is honest and sincere, the violent leftists is just as likely to be ostracized as yourself. In any case, you win. If he's ostracized, he's disarmed. If you're ostracized, many members will recognize that they have failed to convince you that their ideas are right.
Many people will find such an activity practically impossible. However, regardless of your position, it's only a matter of degree. Try the tactics on your statist bridge club of conservative booze buddies.
An excellent and stimulating feature—but—stop sniping! Better nothing than a spiteful retort or tedious objection.
My first issue apparently caught the peak of the discussion on "Anarchy vs. Archy," but I feel obliged to take sides.
Steve Stoddard did an admirable job of defending Ayn Rand's position, with which I agree. Your silly retort was even less than "rather noble."
You even answer your own objection: on a "private road" an "implied contractual agreement"—with the police force—is in effect. I must justify (before a court if necessary) my use of force as a retaliatory measure in defense of another's individual rights.
I agree with Mr. Costello, on the condition that he has a penal system to complement his police "cost" system.
"Filthy Pierre"'s letter was incoherent and of questionable value.
A slap on the wrists is in order for your response to Miss Hendrie's letter. I question whether any criticism can be "positive," or constructive, if it is, in fact unjustified. If what she says is true, her criticism is justified—and therefore "positive."
Nix on AUTOCYBERNISM. The word might connote Automation: a theory that views.…consciousness as a noncontrolling adjunct of the body; or Cybernetics: study of the automatic controlling systems of the brain (Webster). The problem seems to be a variation of:
LEFT WING OR RIGHT WING?
It is an important question—which I have encountered myself. The extreme left and right wings advocate totalitarianism. Their only moderation is in the form of a compromise with the "middle-of-the-roader," which currently embraces a mixed-economy, in-loco-parentis ideal. The average member of society might consider our political position as "moderate, radical right wing" (despite the contradictions). To flatly state that you're a "Capitalist!" provides instant (and probably distorted) recognition. "Objectivist" or "Libertarian" lack general identity. Nevertheless, all three are accurate and, I think, quite suitable. To identify oneself as an "Autocybernist" certainly couldn't improve the purpose of communication. Nor would "sort-of-a-right-winger" (talk about weak-kneed Liberals!). If I find the questioner generally disinterested, I call myself a Capitalist—if he's willing to listen, I call myself a Libertarian—if he's sincerely interested, I become an Objectivist. The main consideration is accuracy.
Kingston, Ontario, Canada
I wonder if anyone has accepted your invitation to respond to Mr. Myers' suggestion (letter, Jan-Feb, 1970) that the proper word to describe the libertarian "philosophy" is "autocybernism." I do not know where Mr. Myers learned Greek, and I do not exclude the possibility that he knows it better than I, but I have been unable to find any justification for such a construction in classical usage. The word kybernao seems to have been a technical word for steering a ship, a meaning retained as the primary connotation of the Latin derivative guberno. I am afraid that, if a Greek derived word is really necessary, autarchy, which is at best an awkward construction (from autos, self and archomai, to rule), will have to suffice. Among the other disadvantages of autarchy is the easy possibility of confounding it with autarky (Gk. autarkeia), which means self sufficiency.
Perhaps it is as well that there is no single word to which we can resort. Libertarianism takes more thinking this way.
A CALL FOR A CEASE-FIRE
In the past two years or so, I have seen an increasing amount of space in various libertarian publications—e.g. The Individualist, Reason, Commentary on Liberty, Libertarian Connection, and Innovator (now called Efficacy)—devoted to an escalating "debate" over the relative merits of a limited-government system versus an "anarchist" system. Having patiently sat through this verbal brouhaha for all this time, I would now like to suggest that a cease-fire is in order, for two very compelling reasons.
Before I do this, however, I will hasten to state that I am neither an epistemologist nor a philosopher, and that I make no claims to being either. I believe that I am qualified to "put in my two cents' worth," nonetheless, on the grounds that I am probably as intelligent and experienced as any of the other people who have seen fit to approach this subject, and that I am generally regarded as a responsible spokesman for the libertarian viewpoint—witness the fact that I have had articles accepted for publication in publications ranging from The New Guard and American Opinion to Freedom Magazine and The Individualist.
And, just to get my biases out in the open, I will state that I personally am inclined toward the limited-government side of the controversy—but I will hasten to add that my devotion to this position is far from wholehearted, and that in relation to the points I will herewith attempt to make, it is not important.
Having done this, I will now turn to the substance of my plea for peace. In essence, it rests on two points—one fairly simple, and one rather complex.
To begin with the simpler—and, in my mind, more important—of the two points, I will merely state that as I see it, the whole debate is almost entirely irrelevant to the problems we face in the real world. This, I believe, is evidenced by the fact that almost all of the arguments—pro and con—which have been presented to date have had to fall back on desert-island or ideal-society situations.
Like it or not, let's face it: whatever system we might like to have, the system we actually do have is very, very far removed from the ideal. And, judging from present trends, it is getting worse, not better. Thus, for any foreseeable span of time, the problem we face is not one of deciding between two fairly similar libertarian systems, but rather one of reversing present trends toward an increasingly statist system.
In today's context, even the relatively "mild" Liberty Amendment (proposed Constitutional amendment to eliminate income tax and get government out of business-type ventures) is considered "far out" by 90% of the population, and of the political leaders in this country. This proposal, which is considered "soft" even by Objectivists—let alone anarchists—has been approved by only seven state legislatures, despite over ten years of efforts by the Amendment's supporters. At best, it might get ratified in another ten years, if everyone who favors reduction or elimination of government (and I mean everyone, from Bill Buckley to Karl Hess) were to make it his sole concern for that period of time.
Our battle, today, is with the ADA, the Kennedys and Rockefellers, and others who seek to expand the state—and any time spent arguing amongst ourselves over relatively fine points is simply wasteful and enervating.
To make an analogy, we are on a train that is heading in the wrong direction, at an ever-increasing speed. When there are so many people working in an organized and active manner to increase its speed, it is foolish for us to waste time and energy fighting over how far we want to take it in the opposite direction. First it must be slowed down, stopped, and turned around. After we do this, and have moved an appreciable distance in the right direction, then we can sanely concern ourselves with just how far we want to go.
Enough on this point. My second reason for urging an indefinite suspension of the debate on limited-government versus anarchy is that I believe that there is no black-and-white, clear-cut case to be made in favor of either alternative. Both have their advantages; both have their disadvantages. In many respects, it is simply a case of "you pays your money, and you takes your choice."
I say this for a number of reasons, the primary among them being that no society can be perfect, because people aren't perfect. If everyone were infallible, any political-economic system would work; if everyone were totally evil, society would be hellish regardless of its form. To elaborate briefly, I think it can be reasonably postulated that if all men were perfectly moral, they would act in a moral manner regardless of what type of system they were ostensibly operating under; even if they had a nominally Communist system, they would all act as if they were in a free society, and the net effect would be the same as if they had formally decided to have a free society. Conversely, if everyone resorted to coercion at the drop of a hat—killing, stealing, etc. every time it suited their whims—no system would be truly satisfactory. The net effect would be gang-rule, whether you called it Nazism or anarcho-capitalism.
Which brings us to the key point regarding the essentially futile nature of "the great debate"—namely, that as long as there are people who will resort to coercion (initiation of force or threat thereof), you cannot have a "society without coercion." At best, you can have a society which minimizes coercion.
This being the case, the question at hand then becomes "Which form of social organization—limited government or anarchism—will result in the greatest reduction of coercion?" And the answer, as far as I can determine, is that it is pretty much of a trade-off. Each will reduce coercion to a certain level—that level being primarily dependent on the nature of the people in the society—and the main difference between the two is in the nature of that coercion, not in the amount.
There are certain problems you will have under either setup, and certain others which are endemic to one, but not the other. Different individuals would define these problems differently, in each case, but after you cut through all the tortured syntax, semantic hair-splitting, desert islands, and Rand-quoting, they boil down approximately as follows…
First, under either system, you will have problems regarding the establishment of "rules of conduct"—law-making, as it were. In an anarchist society, there are no laws, technically speaking—simply commonly accepted rules of conduct, if that much. Each individual is bound only by those rules he wishes to be bound by. If Mr. Smith doesn't like what Mr. Jones is doing, he has no authority to fall back on, other than community sentiment, and, if he can afford one, his hired "protective" agency. Although moral right and wrong still exist, there is no final arbiter regarding the moral rightness or wrongness of any position.
Under a limited government, the problem is different, but no less thorny. It is fairly easy to pass laws—but no guarantee that those laws will be moral. Depending on the ease with which laws can be passed, and the degree of irrationality and immorality present in society, you might get a good bunch of laws, but then again, you might not. Thus, your choice between the two systems is likely to boil down to one of organized, legalized coercion versus unorganized, unpredictable coercion.
Under a limited-government arrangement, the root problem, in fact, is that of keeping it "limited." As many people have noted, constitutions can be amended or circumvented (and a constitution which couldn't be amended wouldn't be desirable, anyhow); usually, such amendation takes the form of loosening the restrictions on government power. Thus, in the long run, a constitution is no guarantee against despotism. Another way to try to keep a "limited" government under control is to make provisions for secession by dissatisfied parties. Unfortunately, there is nothing to guarantee that this provision will be adhered to, and even if it is, you run the risk of simply creating a lot of little totalitarian mini-states.
The other big problem with a limited government is—how do you finance its operation? Taxation is simply legalized theft, voluntary contributions probably wouldn't provide the necessary revenues, government enterprises are rarely profitable, even under today's system where they are given special privileges, and pay-as-you-use-the-services is impractical for things like defense. At best, you will have some coercion—perhaps a combination of pay-as-you-use and death taxes (if you must tax anyone, it is better to tax the dead than the living; inheritance taxes also have the not-wholly- undesirable effect of preventing the accumulation of unearned wealth).
So much for limited government; it obviously has its faults. Anarchy has its drawbacks, too, however. The primary one is enforcing the "laws," even if you can get everyone to agree what they are. Another problem under an anarchic system is—how do you protect those people unwilling or unable to protect themselves? A man has the right to his own life and property even if he can't or won't defend them, and any system which does not make sure that those rights are protected has a gaping flaw in it. Thus, the question comes down to "Are we going to force other folks to pay for this man's protection, or are we going to let anyone who wants to violate his rights get away with it, just because he can't (or won't) defend himself?"
Anarchic societies are at a disadvantage when it comes to defense against outside aggressors, too—a group which can draw on only some of its members for support against an invader is obviously less likely to stave off conquest than one which can draw on everyone's resources. And what do you do about enemy sympathizers in an anarchistic society? If they want to sell guns or give aid to the enemy, what's to stop them? I realize that to draw on the support of unwilling citizens by force is immoral, and so is restraint of trade—but then again, being conquered by a totalitarian enemy results in coercion, too. Sure, you can hope that everyone in your society will realize that it is in best interests to support the cause, but if you can't count on it, you may have real problems. So, once again, the choice is between different forms and degrees of coercion, and the best we can hope for is minimization of that coercion.
Enough. I believe I have made my point—namely that both systems leave something to be desired, although either is better than what we have now. Perhaps the best arrangement is a sort of semi-government (corporate society or "covenant" arrangement).
But again, this is immaterial. The important thing is to stop fighting over abstract concepts, and spend our energies working for the diminution of the state here and now.
David F. Nolan
I write with regard to John H. Costello's letter in the Jan/Feb issue. I would agree that if someone is found responsible for a loss incurred by another person then the former party should pay the full cost of establishing his responsibility provided that the police agency and prosecuting counsel did not run up an excessively high bill. However, I must disagree with Mr. Costello when he sees "no justifiable objection to executing murderers" if they are conclusively proved guilty. Justice surely requires the murderer to make restitution to his victim's estate and to all those whom the victim's death has occasioned a direct and major loss of value (e.g. his family) insofar as is humanly possible. (See Morris and Linda Tannehill, Liberty Via the Market, pp. 94-99.)
Finally, I refer to Steve Stoddard's letter. The first point I would like to make is that the "sovereignty" of his "government" necessarily involves the initiation of force against those persons wishing to exercise their right to use retaliatory force where the occasion demands.
Secondly, with regard to Mr. Stoddard's example of the initiation of force in a street: private ownership of the roads removes much of the problem but it does not deal completely with Steve Stoddard's point.
1 think the full answer would be rather like this:
1. "Perhaps all the cops could wear uniforms to identify themselves. But there could be no law that they had to and one could never be sure who was which." Answer: any rationally run police agency would put its employees in uniform.
2. "Besides, what would stop the criminals from dressing in a similar manner: cops would be arresting each other all the time to try to avoid it or else they would assume anyone unknown wearing such a uniform worked for a different agency." Answer: at the present time robbers disguise themselves as policemen and exactly the same thing would happen doubtless with an 'Objectivist' government. Mr. Stoddard is surely making a mountain out of a molehill.
3. "…Would all the agencies subscribe to the same code of laws?" Answer: each agency would do its best to refrain from initiating force. Those that were most successful would pay least compensation and gain most customers (though their good reputation), thereby making the biggest profits.
4. "Then we see that 'competing defense agencies' is no more than a euphemism for gang or tribal warfare." Answer: this is the point most limited state Objectivists make—they seem to think that the trappings of government are necessary for people to be able to discern between right and wrong.
Thirdly, Mr. Stoddard's statement that "the government would not allow arbitrary acts of force (initiatory or retaliatory)" causes me to ask how an arbitrary act of force can be retaliatory. When he says that "the government would not allow (you, the private individual) to use retaliatory force unless you could prove that you were right" I would ask to whom the government would prove the morality of its own actions.
Fourthly, I would certainly agree with Steve Stoddard when he says that "the law must be supreme, i.e., objective, not arbitrary." However, statutory law is unsatisfactory because it is inflexible in its application. It is in the natural law of just human relationships (which prohibits the use of coercion to deprive a man of a value) which is objective. Private arbitration agencies would seek to interpret this basic rule with regard to the particular circumstances of the disputes before them. Mr. Stoddard argues that "the concept of 'competition' is totally inapplicable in this context. If the law isn't objectively codified and rigidly, unalterably enforceable, then a free society cannot exist." Competition between arbitration agencies refers to competition to provide perfectly just verdicts just as competition between protection agencies means competition to provide perfectly secure protection in a perfectly just way. (Again, see Morris and Linda Tannehills' book, pp. 116- 125.) Although I would not advocate competing legal codes there are some libertarians who do (e.g. Jarret Wollstein, Society Without Coercion, p. 32).
Fifthly, I would point out a fundamental contradiction in Mr. Stoddard's letter. In the third column he states: "Since the individual can judge and retaliate, so can the government, i.e., the government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed." Yet, in the next column he denies his own words by saying: "Only a government can arrest, judge and incarcerate…A government does not derive the powers to arrest, judge and incarcerate from the right of the individual to arrest, judge and incarcerate…These are not in fact stolen concepts. Mr. Stoddard seems to think that legal concepts attach only to government—legality is in fact objective and is not conferred by manmade constitutions.
Further contradictions are revealed in the 'question-and-answer' approach which Steve Stoddard employs. In answer to the question, "Do men have the right to secede?", he states that "men do not have the right to secede from a proper government and establish another. The only basis for 'competition' would be the violation of men's rights." Yet, near the beginning of the letter, he says: "If you did not want to be protected then the government would leave you off its list" and thus seems willing to tolerate secession. In fact, the moment that the first government took action to prevent secession it would be causing a violation of men's rights by initiating force and therefore would provide the justification for secession! Mr. Stoddard would have the government chosen by elections which would indicate the extent of support for each alternative. I would point out that majority opinion is not always right and, indeed, often wrong. The existence of a market in protection, arbitration and restitution services would permit the most moral (and therefore the most effective) developments to occur more easily than under a political system of elections. In Steve Stoddard's next 'answer' he seems to come over to Wollstein's point of view! I should think that no 'anarcho-capitalist' would object to a "government" which "is not an institution to control all the people in a given geographical area" but "only to control those who initiate force" because in fact it is no longer really a government but rather a protection agency pure and simple.
Finally, I would point out a major error which is implicit throughout Mr. Stoddard's letter and which is made explicit in the last paragraph. There he states that "the government of a Capitalistic society would not have any rights, nor would it claim to…(citizens) would only agree for it to be the sole repository for the use of physical force to protect their rights." Yet the fact is that "the use of physical force to protect their (the citizens') rights" is the exercise of a right…the right of a man or a group to administer retaliatory force on behalf of individuals or groups of individuals whose rights have been violated.
Egham, Surrey, England
Your article "Animal Farm 1970" was long overdue. I hope it is widely circulated.
This letter is directed to Mr. Stoddard, whose letter appeared in the Jan-Feb issue.
I would like to expose some of the gross misapplications of Objectivist ethics you made in your letter published in REASON and to which Mr. Friedlander referred.
Your first major point is that talk of competition in this kind of discussion is inappropriate because "competition" is an economic concept. This last is correct, and is precisely what makes talk about competition in this context most relevant. Justice is desired by many persons and is the object of (some of) their purposeful action. It is scarce (preciously scarce!) and must be produced. It is, therefore, an economic good, and your position as a laissez-faire capitalist is compromised by your insistence that this particular economic good must not be marketed freely, but must be produced by a coercive monopoly. All objective morality is sharply in contradiction to this position, as is sound economics. There is no way for a coercive monopoly to produce competently any economic good, let alone one requiring such complex knowledge as justice. The great achievement of von Mises's Socialism is his proof that only a profit/loss mechanism can guide efficient allocation of resources; but profit/loss information is useless to a coercive monopoly who which has ipso facto distorted the market. (See further "Justice and the State" by Natalie Hall and Skye D'Aureous in LIBERTARIAN CONNECTION No. 6.) (Incidentally, I notice that no constitutionalist has yet refuted the charge that governments are coercive monopolies. That they are monopolies even Rand admits in "The Nature of Government." So how about it, constitutionalists, are they competitive or coercive?)
Your argument about uniformed constables is completely beside the point. Surely there would exist plain-clothes-men in a limited state, wouldn't there? Would a constitutionalist's state have a uniformed FBI? And what would there be in a limited government to keep non-constables from wearing counterfeit uniforms? Objective dress regulations?
I will by-pass your discussion of edicts (you call them "laws"). The concept "government" is prior to the concept "edict" and so the latter must be defended by reference to the former, not conversely. This, incidentally, is what is wrong with so many defenses of constitutionalism: by invoking "the law" or "legality" they are relying chiefly in readers' emotions, since those concepts cannot yet have been validated. For those who inquire as to my usage of "edict" rather than "law" I refer you to Lysander Spooner's "Natural Law; or the Science of Justice" (showing that "all legislation whatsoever is an absurdity, a usurpation, and a crime"). The use of the word "law" in statutory contexts is highly misleading, as it suggests similarity to natural principles. And those who do not understand the difference between, say election "laws" and moral laws such as "No one ought to aggress against any other" have never learned the difference between objectivity and subjectivity.
Some have suggested that limited states might permit competition among defense agencies, but they go on to say that these defense agencies must justify themselves to the government. But does not a government, to be moral, need to justify its forceful acts? Of course it does. So this cannot constitute a difference between defense agencies and governments. A government should be just as liable to defense agencies, if the latter should call into question the actions of its officials. What then is the difference between defense agencies and governments? Only this: the latter coercively forbids competition and the former does not. I say "coercively" because in bringing an aggressor to justice a defense agency violates no one's rights. Then how dare any constitutionalist claim that this activity must be forbidden (which forbidding will most probably be supported by force or threats thereof) and yet claim that his beloved limited state acts morally? Even if some defense agencies were allowed to exist, the relation between them and the government would be exactly the same as the relation between the UPS and the Post Office. I raise this point only as a general answer to your comments on retaliation. I have made it general to answer those comments of others that are similar to your own. Do not raise the question of agencies that initiate force, for that question is substantially the same as questions of governments that initiate force; there is no difference between a "defense" agency's initiating force and a "legitimate" government's initiating force. And because man by nature is able to know reality, he needs no government officials (even objectively elected ones) to tell him what constitutes aggression and what retaliation. Do you think businessmen—acting to gain a profit—would do a worse job of defining the differences between coercion and retaliation than would government officials—acting to win next year's objective election? And in answer to the question: "How does a person know, not only who are cops and who are robbers, but who are good cops and who are robbers?" the correct response is: "Certainly not by asking a group of objectively elected officials, as though they had knowledge to which common men are privy." One would know the same way he knows anything else: he must use his own mind.
Just some notes in Mr. Wollstein's behalf: before you incorrectly charge him with concept-stealing, watch using such concepts as "citizen" and "law (statutory)" without first validating the concept "legitimate government." I say you incorrectly charge him because: (1) it is just not true that only a government can arrest, because "arrest" only means "seize," "capture"—there may be an "official seizing," but this concept is dependent on the other; (2) it is just not true that only a government can incarcerate, because "incarcerate" only means "confine" and anyone can confine anyone else, though not always morally; (3) and it is emphatically just not true that only a government can judge! A statement like that ("only a government can arrest, JUDGE, and incarcerate"—emphasis mine) reveals the motive of constitutionalism—to "relieve" individual persons from the responsibility of making certain kinds of judgements. I will have more to say on this later. For now, I will only say that constitutionalism is institutionalized social metaphysics in that the decision to use retaliatory force must be left up to a collective, the government.
Another weak point in the constitutionalist position is the issue of secession. Anything the government does with authority must be sanctioned by the consent of the governed. Presumably whatever a government rightly does against secessionists is done with authority (else the action is immoral), and this authority to deal with secessionists (forcefully, if the situation calls for it) must also come from the consent of the governed. But when people secede they are withdrawing their consent. To invoke the consent of the governed at this point clearly cannot mean that a government has the consent of the secessionists to forcefully forbid their withdrawing their consent. If the government is truly the agent of those it rules, they must have the power and the right to withdraw their consent. Such an invocation of the consent of the governed in the contest of forbidding withdrawing consent can only mean that some have given their consent to suppress others who will not give their consent. For a more complete and thoroughly devastating criticism of constitutionalism on this point, see Lysander Spooner's No Treason; the Constitution of No Authority. If a government forcefully forbids secession, it is behaving coercively and has business existing. The only correct observation you have made of secession is that if it is permitted limited government is lost. On the other hand, if secession is not permitted, government by consent is lost. So much the worse for limited government.
A minor puzzle is your claim that the government of a Capitalist society would neither have nor claim rights, yet you also assert that it has all sorts of authority, e.g. authority over the property of succeeding generations. But how can a government have authority without rights? Isn't this a contradiction? Another minor point is that it's irrelevant whether you can conceive of anyone's making "that great an issue of the frequency of elections." The question you were supposed to answer was: what if they did? You cannot reply that that would be irrational, for people surely have the right to be irrational as long as they do not violate anyone's rights. How is making it that great an issue violating anyone's rights? Will there be objective legislation defining what is and what is not a great issue? Another minor objection is that you claim that without government civilization collapses. Surely there was civilization in Galt's Gulch, yet there was no government.
In conclusion, I think that the best analysis of constitutionalism's fundamental error comes from Joe Hoffman's "A Miscellany of Statist Fallacies" (LIBERTARIAN CONNECTION No. 9). He recalls one of the principles of "The Nature of Government" which is supposed to show the necessity of government, viz. "The use of force—even its retaliatory use—cannot be left at the discretion of individual citizens." Ignoring Rand's error of smuggling in the concept "citizens" he writes: "Let's see—in that case we are left with four possibilities as to what is going to decide to use force: 1.) animals other than man, 2.) vegetables, 3.) inanimate matter, 4.) gods or other non-existents." The use of force will always be in the hands of individual persons, and none of them—objectively elected or not—has a right to say that only he and his cohorts are qualified to judge when it should and should not be used, and to forbid all others to make such a decision without his leave. Limited government, Mr. Stoddard, is morally evasive and cowardly—it's an attempt to escape the responsibility of making certain kinds of decisions by delegating this responsibility (and forcing others to delegate it) to a collective. "Constitutionalism" is a euphemism for "limited-statism", and, like so many moral issues, that of archism vs. anarchism is that of collectivism vs. individualism.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters to the Editor".
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.