So, Have You Stopped Believing in the Legitimacy of the State?

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Occasional Reason contributor Gene Callahan offers an analogy between wife-beaters and minarchists.

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  1. Proving by analogical reasoning the even thinner line between ideological purity and pure idiocy.

  2. Oh, whatever. When anarchists talk like this, I can’t help but think they gloss over the enforcement mechanisms built in to their preferred forms of anarchy.

    I like David Friedman quite a bit, and his is the most reasonable treatment of anarchy I’ve seen. He still has rule of law and he still has enforcement mechanisms – all he does is offer them in distributed ways while steadfastly refusing to call the law generation and enforcement he prefers a ‘government’.

    Viewed this way, the minarchist and anarchist visions are not all that different at all.

  3. That is exactly the kind of argument that allows people of other persuasions to call libertarians fantasist utopians who wouldn’t know a practical idea if it bit them on the ass… I usually jump to our defense, of course, but when someone says the gap between me and Stalin is “relatively small”, they can defend themselves.

  4. Preachy-

    The gap between you and Stalin is huge. It’s called BEING IN POWER.

  5. Yes, yes, power corrupts etc… but do you really mean to imply that the only reason I haven’t killed 20 million (give or take) is that I haven’t had the opportunity? If we’re all mass murderers just waiting for the chance to get in power, then no political system could possibly survive, and an all-against-all state of nature would actually be the safest form of existence. I’m afraid I would need more than an Acton quote to convince me of that – given that most political systems have, in fact, survived without murder on more than a moderate scale.

  6. The whole analogy depends on considering state power as fundamentally illegitimate as domestic violence. And I don’t really think that.

  7. Peachy:

    It would be hard to argue that we’re not a murderous species. It’s not so much that power corrupts. It’s rather the case that having no power produces ideoligical fantasies. They might sound and feel good, but they’re still just fantasies.

  8. “I like David Friedman quite a bit, and his is the most reasonable treatment of anarchy I’ve seen. He still has rule of law and he still has enforcement mechanisms – all he does is offer them in distributed ways while steadfastly refusing to call the law generation and enforcement he prefers a ‘government’.”

    This would be why I don’t get into arguements over anarchy-vs-minarchy anymore. The definition of “anarchy” itself is up for grabs, & based on the descriptions given by people like Dave it might not actually exist. I’d say we’ll know where to draw the line when the current crimes of the State are out, whether a shell exists or we break off into little voluntary city-states isn’t my concern.

  9. Anarchy: the absence of a state.

    This minarchist (first time I’ve referred to myself as such, but it seems I am) has a hard time thinking that in the absence of a state that I will have enforceable property rights, or that the 1st (several parts of anyway), 3rd, 4th, 8th (second clause), or 13th amendments can possibly be considered rights in any enforceable way.

    Anarchy means anyone who is bigger than you, has a bigger gun or knife, or who is part of a gang vs your free from constraining companions solo self, can basically murder you, rape you, take anything they want from you, torture you, or all of the above, and you have no redress.

    My defintion of libertarian, a minarchist one if you will, has two parts. 1) Individuals have the right to do whatever they want so long as they don’t infringe on anyone else’s such right. 2) The government should restrict itself to commons problems, with enforcement of part 1 being one such commons problems.

    I have a hard time seeing how this makes me the equivalent of a wife beater.

    I agree that commons spaces (fishing rights, grazing land etc. should be eliminated if feasible, and if not feasible, then at least reduced as much as possible. This is wife beating?

    I think it is ludicrous to say that the US can be defended against foreign invaders (who are far less friendly to the idea of liberty than minarchists) on the basis of unpaid defense forces, or that the free market would create such defense forces through voluntary contributions, and that such a voluntary defense force is somehow not a statist construction anyway.

    The great minarchist Milton Friedman is in large part responsible for the elimination of the draft (in the US), and I dare say all minarchists are opposed to the draft.

  10. Jason, the “visions” that anarcho-capitalists and minarchist libertarians have may not be that different. But the actual implementations matter, and underlying the implementations are the ideological justifications. This is what Callahan is attempting to get at. Not that I think his analogy good; to make it better it would be more like we’re at a convention of wifebeaters where everyone is being forced by some evil alien overlord to beat his wife once a week at minimum. Then they debate it. Getting it down to once a year is, from that perspective, an honorable goal.

    But back to the ideological thing for a second… anarchists have, to my mind, a pretty strong case against minarchism: the USA then and now. Sure the USA wasn’t perfectly minarchist, but I don’t think we’re going to get too many better examples. On the other hand, this sort of argument really is premature, given that the issues of the day are not whether or not to sell the roads, but rather whether to nuke Iran or not.

    Analogically, it’s like there’s a caucus at the wifebeaters convention in a back room arguing about 1 or 0 times per year, while in the main convention hall they’re talking about moving up from paddles to barbed whips.

    I don’t think Friedman would say there is “a” government in his idea of anarchy. “A government” basically is the same as “state”, and “state” is what we’re trying to avoid with anarchy. I do think Friedman would allow that there is “government”, in the sense that people’s actions are governed, that there is rule of law, etc. Anyway, I would say that, and I am a Friedman-converted AC.

  11. At its heart, libertarianism is not a political position. Libertarianism is a description of a society rather than a description of a political system. Anarchists and minarchists want to see the same society: They simply differ on whether they believe that society can best be achieved with or without a government.

    I believe that anarchy is possible and is the best way to achieve a libertarian society. But I recognize that that belief is founded on little empirical evidence and on theory of questionable reach. I further realize that there are many counterintuitive results in economics and in game theory that might indicate that an anarchy could very well be an unstable situation and that stopping with a minarchy would leave a more libertarian society for more people in the end.

    To say that minarchists are closer to Stalinists than to anarchists not only discounts the great unknown of no government. It also ignores the notion that Stalinism, like libertarianism, is fundamentally not a political position. It, too, is a description of a society. The political system in a Stalinist state is merely that which will achieve a Stalinist society.

    Once you recognize that these supposedly political positions are really social positions — even the Founding Fathers invented the political system they thought would achieve their libertarian objectives! — the goofiness of the author’s argument shines clear.

  12. Nevertheless, I see the anarchist/statist distinction as the most fundamental political divide. Once one accepts the notion that initiating aggression is OK under some circumstances, then the case for human liberty has been abandoned, and all that remains is to argue over what degree of enslavement is acceptable.
    OK, Gene. We’ve all abandoned the case, except for Ruthless and (apparently) Uri and you.

    Of course, that’s a criticism that might matter if 99% of anarchists pressed to describe an anarchic society didn’t end up mentioning a central (non-state) organization that uses coercion (in a non-statist way) in order to enforce (non-statistly) certain rules (not laws!) necessary to maintain order (without a state!).

  13. Of course, that’s a criticism that might matter if 99% of anarchists pressed to describe an anarchic society didn’t end up mentioning a central (non-state) organization that uses coercion (in a non-statist way) in order to enforce (non-statistly) certain rules (not laws!) necessary to maintain order (without a state!).

    The problem seems to be that Gene Callahan is taking natural rights to the ultimate extreme. I have been convinced — mostly from years of mulling after reading David Friedman — that natural rights are an extremely useful heuristic, but that they do not comprise a complete argument. Thus conclusions you reach from using them as a complete argument are suspect.

    The example of the person who is building the nuclear bomb next door fits here. She has initiated force against no one. But if and when she does initiate force — either intentionally or accidentally — 100,000 people will die. You’d be hard-pressed to find a minarchist or anarchist who would say you couldn’t do something about it.

    Now imagine she’s your wife.

  14. (Inconsequential nit: the nuclear bomb example is only so tricky. Someone next door to you with a nuclear bomb is equivalent to someone next door aiming a gun at your head. Once you answer how you should handle that, you’ve answered how you – and everyone else in the blast radius – should handle nukes.)

  15. Someone next door to you with a nuclear bomb is equivalent to someone next door aiming a gun at your head.

    Well, no. Aiming a gun evidences a certain intention that is absent from merely possessing a gun (or a bomb, or a nuclear bomb).

    There are perfectly rational and valid deterrence-based reasons to have something like a nuke around. Aiming a gun at someone doesn’t implicate any of those reasons.

  16. Anarchy means anyone who is bigger than you, has a bigger gun or knife, or who is part of a gang vs your free from constraining companions solo self, can basically murder you, rape you, take anything they want from you, torture you, or all of the above, and you have no redress.

    Satatism means having a gang that can take away your means of defense against someone who is bigger, etc. Can send you to war to kill or be killed (or a lest make you pay for it) etc.

    The reason we will have a state is because that’s what people believe in. If enough believed in some stateless society, then that’s what we would have.

  17. “Someone next door to you with a nuclear bomb is equivalent to someone next door aiming a gun at your head.”

    Well, no. Aiming a gun evidences a certain intention that is absent from merely possessing a gun (or a bomb, or a nuclear bomb).

    There are perfectly rational and valid deterrence-based reasons to have something like a nuke around. Aiming a gun at someone doesn’t implicate any of those reasons.

    You’re missing the point of proximity. If I possess a nuke and keep it close enough to you that you would die or be hurt if I set it off (as usually would be the case if I’m your neighbor), that is precisely equivalent to my keeping a gun trained on your head. If I keep a nuke on property miles away from anybody so that it’s only my lookout if something goes boom, it’s a rather different situation.

  18. Anarchy, contrary to popular belief, is not the absence of a state…it is the absence of rulers. The key word for sustained anarchy is “responsibility,” since all rulers exist as the result of people being unwilling to take responsibility for community decision-making.

    Rather than jump to absolutes, it is sometimes more helpful to look at limited examples. The US federal government, for instance, exists because each state government is incapable or just unwilling to accept responsibility for the well-being of the other states.

    The more conscientiously that individuals or groups weigh the needs of their neighbors against their own desires–without attempting to control those neighbors–the less need for laws or government. This is the spirit of anarchy.

  19. Hey, I can’t wait for the LewRockwell.com to set-up the anarchy of our dreams!
    Darkies back under control, heathens kicked out, and don’t forget we can stone those annoying faggots. But hey, this won’t be so bad because instead of government doing all this fun, it will be the town’s friendly lynch mob πŸ˜€
    Alleluja!

  20. Hey, I can’t wait for the LewRockwell.com to set-up the anarchy of our dreams!
    Darkies back under control, heathens kicked out, and don’t forget we can stone those annoying faggots. But hey, this won’t be so bad because instead of government doing all this fun, it will be the town’s friendly lynch mob πŸ˜€
    Alleluja!

  21. Damn double-posting 😑

  22. The only reason there seems in such a room (Callahan’s example) that there’d seem to be a huge gap between the anti-wife-beater and everybody else is that the anti-wife-beater comes from a society in which the pro-wife-beating factions are very rare.

  23. Q: What did the Anarchist say to the Minarchist?

    A: I will never vote for your position.

    And here is one more place where proponents of freedom demonstrate that they:

    1) Are completely unable to work together for even the smallest of gains against the statists

    2) Demonstrate to Average Joe just how obtuse and inscrutable their positions are

    3) Can never ever ever ever influence the public debate.

    Meanwhile the Wall Street bankers who spend every evening enjoying thousands of dollars of lap dances will easily ally himself with the religious nut-bar in order to get to get power? or conversely the six-pack, deer-hunter, union man can ally with the Vegetarian Greenie to do the same.

    Us? We sit around comparing the colours of our headscarfs (you know what I mean)

  24. Hey, I can’t wait for the LewRockwell.com to set-up the anarchy of our dreams!
    Darkies back under control, heathens kicked out, and don’t forget we can stone those annoying faggots. But hey, this won’t be so bad because instead of government doing all this fun, it will be the town’s friendly lynch mob πŸ˜€
    Alleluja!

    Heh, heh, sounds like life under some familiar governments.

  25. Hey, I can’t wait for the LewRockwell.com to set-up the anarchy of our dreams!
    Darkies back under control, heathens kicked out, and don’t forget we can stone those annoying faggots. But hey, this won’t be so bad because instead of government doing all this fun, it will be the town’s friendly lynch mob πŸ˜€
    Alleluja!

    Heh, heh, sounds like life under some familiar governments.

    Comment by: uncle sam at April 11, 2006 07:34 PM

    ————————————————–

    You just don’t get it! Don’t you see, this would all be done voluntarily. That’s the beauty of anarchism that all the things we do now will be so much more moral and better once government gets out of the way…

  26. The reason we will have a state is because that’s what people believe in. If enough believed in some stateless society, then that’s what we would have.

    It seems to me that if you can’t get minarchists to wrap their minds around how people would have rights (except the right to get their rights trampled without recourse) in a “stateless society”, then you will not be able to get the general public to do so either.

    Therefore the only way a stateless society can happen is in the wake of a more-or-less minarchist state where the general public sees that liberty is actually better than the tyranny of the nanny state.

    So, going back to the referenced thread in the blog, the anarchists will just have to find a way to work with the minimal wifebeaters, er, the minarchists, towards a freer society in the meantime while they bide their time for their stateless utopia.

  27. Jason:

    all he (David Friedman ) does is offer them in distributed ways while steadfastly refusing to call the law generation and enforcement he prefers a ‘government’.

    Friedman is right to reject calling the framework contained in his vision a ‘government’ cuz there is no sectioned non-contractual initiation of force among adults in that vision.

  28. Pure anarchy would only work if men was naturally good (ah, Good Old Rousseau, how much silliness thou are responsible for). That is, if men – and women – would not use their freedom to oppress others who cannot fight back. Unfortunately they do.

    The analogy with wife-beaters is particularly offensive, because quite often the motivator to stop doing it is cops and the possibility of going to jail (the complaints of battered women was not that the Government intervened, but that it was extremely lax in defending them).

    Refashion men so that they will not be tempted to abuse others, and I will consider removing Government and its coercion.

  29. Callahan’s analogy remins me of a thing I read once (paraphrasing freely here):

    “The difference between a forty-dollar watch and a four-thousand-dollar watch is vastly less than the difference between a forty-dollar watch and no watch at all.”

    ——-

    The other day, somebody made a reference to the early Pennsylvania Colony as being a near-anarchic state. I suspect that an examination of the Colony during that period would reveal a lot of “ad hoc committees” performing what would generally be considered governmental functions. Lynch mobs included.

    I suppose I must align myself with the Minarchists (until such time as I assume my rightful mantle of Exhalted Despot). Personal experience has pretty much cured me of any latent tendencies toward “Rousseauianism.”

  30. Anarchy, contrary to popular belief, is not the absence of a state

    Actually, it’s the absence of bacon.

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