Update: “Machan doesn’t really mean even this, since he helpfully adds, “I will only mention that I am not in principle against world government…” Of course, world government would eliminate any possibility of emigration or immigration altogether, unless, perhaps, one intends to emigrate to Mars! ” From this review of Machan’s book.
This conservative-statist emphasis on the importance on “finality” reminds of the similar Objectivist view–see, e.g, Anarchy Reigns; and the “Randians and One-World Government” in Libertarian Centralists; and Roderick Long’s comments about the Objectivists’ belief in the need for a “final arbiter” in his excellent Libertarian Anarchism: Responses to Ten Objections.
From my post Libertarian Centralists:
Randians and One-World Government
I also mean some Randians, who seem to have a rosy view of America and American justice and our Constitutional system, and who also hold views that seem to logicaly imply one-world government (the ultimate in centralism), despite stating elsewhere that they oppose one-world government. Objectivists seem obsessed in rationalist-constructivist manner over the alleged need to have a “final arbiter” who can settle disputes (apparently, whether the final decision is right or wrong–so long as it’s “final”), and have a their rabid opposition and hostility to anarchy because of the possibility of disputes between independent states. If anarchy is flawed because of the problems of competing defense agencies who are not subject to the authority of a final arbiter, the Randian is logically committed to favoring an end to the current international anarchy of 200 nations not subject to a unified, “rational” government.
Rand herself was explicitly against one world government, but the implications of Randians’ hatred of anarchy and their arguments in this regard would seem to support increasing centralization wherever possible.
See, e.g., the comments of my old friend, Objectivist Bob Bidinotto:
“For a government to operate legitimately, i. e., in accordance with individual rights, presupposes the existence of a supporting culture, one respectful of the philosophic premises at the base of the rule of law and individual liberty: reason, individual rights, constitutionally limited government. Today, such an Enlightenment-based cultural infrastructure may be possible at the level of single nations.
A precondition of a legitimate one-world government would be the existence of a global culture endorsing these Enlightenment premises. While that may be theoretically possible in the future, it certainly doesn’t exist, and it’s highly unlikely. And for us to endorse a “one-world government” in a world that rejects Enlightenment premises is suicidal.
For all those reasons, the “final arbiter” of conflicts among Americans must remain within U. S. borders, at the federal level. Conflicts between us and those in foreign lands can be addressed, where possible, by treaties — but not treaties that undermine U. S. sovereignty and the rights of U. S. citizens.”
Notice here Bidinotto speaks of the road blocks that prevent us from having one-world government. But he speaks of it as if it would be something that might be a good idea, if e.g. we had more universal respect around the world for “Enlightenment premises.”
See also Roderick Long’s Bidinotto-Long debate on anarchism.
My reply to Machan in that thread:
- Stephan Kinsella
- Machan writes,
“Rothbard, however, wasn’t your ordinary anarchist, one who rejects all law and government.”
Nor am I or any other libertarian anarchists of which I’m aware.
“He advocated what he called defense agencies or something along those lines that are, in fact, governments committed to nothing more than defending individual rights.”
If you want to define “government” to mean whatever institutions administer law and justice, but which are not necessarily *states*–that is, entities that claim a coercive monopoly on justice in a given area, require forced membership and tribute (taxes)–then we anarchists are not opposed to government. We are opposed to states–that is, any entity that outlaws competition, and that compels membership and taxes. We oppose these things because they are necessarily aggressive. I have written on this here: What It Means To Be an Anarcho-Capitalist.
“One area of difference between Rothbardian—or anarcho—libertarians and others is not what so many of the former think, namely, anarchism, but the idea of floating governments. By this view governments need not have jurisdiction within some contiguous geographical region but can, a bit like pizza delivery or plumbing service providers, float about, adjudicating disputes in any region that would hire them to help uphold justice.”
Tibor, to me this is just a technical question. I have no firm position on it. In my view, what is crucial is the belief that a given “government” may not outlaw competition. It may not forcibly prevent someone in “its” territory from opting out or hiring another PDA. If such rules were followed and a given PDA still came to dominate an area, fine.
To me it is rather simple: does a libertarian oppose aggression in all its forms, or not? I think he has to. So then the question is, what actions that are typically or necessarily taken by “governments” constitution aggression? I think it is pretty clear, or at least reasonably arguable in line with reasonable libertarian principles, that if a government compels taxes, or membership/citizenship, or outlaws competing agencies, then this is aggression.
“Instead, the issue is whether these so called anarcho-libertarians have some kind of higher moral ground than those who hold that there needs to be some kind of adjudication system in place for a free society to function.”
But anarchists to believe there needs to be a justice system, of course.
“Most defenders of the classical liberal idea of limited government include as one of their premises that human beings sometimes do not conduct themselves in a civilized fashion and find themselves, thus, in conflict with others. Even when they do their utmost best to act in a civilized fashion and respect the rights of everyone, they can make innocent mistakes that can lead to disputes among them. And it is important, in such instances, to have in place a forum and process that will enable them to reach some sort of decisive settlement of the dispute.”
Sure, just as it is important to have in place an industry that will make automobiles. This does not mean there needs to be coercion used to “put in place” such an industry or institution.
“This is where the institution called “government” comes in for even the most libertarian of us. Any idea of doing away with government—and renaming it something like “defense agency” or “justice agency” or the like isn’t the same as doing away with it—is a myth, an idle dream for anyone interested in justice throughout human communities.”
Well let’s forget the semantics then. Whether you call it PDA or government, the anarchist opposes the use of aggression by both private individuals and these entities. Minarchists and certainly mainstream people have no qualms with the state employing some aggression. Anarchists oppose the aggression.
“Governments, of course, can have many forms and most have been corrupt versions in most of human history, there is no disputing this among libertarians.”
Most? Have there been ANY that have not been corrupt?
“But anarcho-libertarian have the penchant for elevating their Rothbardian version of libertarianism as holier than though—as if they were pure, while all the rest, such as Nozickians, Randians, and those who follow the likes of von Mises and von Hayek, were all a corrupt, compromised version.”
But opposing aggression in principle does make one necessarily believe all those minarchist type libertarians are endorsing a form of aggression. Are we not permitted to be principled anarcho-capitalists because it is impolite?
“More importantly, though, the alleged purism of the anarcho-libertarian rests on semantics—renaming the institution that is to adjudicate disputes and thus gaining some supposedly moral high ground for denouncing all government. Rothbard, for example, defined government in terms of taxation—it isn’t one if it doesn’t tax. Rand, who had no problem using the term “government,” defined it without this element. So, which is the better definition?”
I don’t konw. But what we libertarians oppose is aggression–including of course institutionalized aggression. Some of us libertarians recognize that states necessarily employ aggression. We oppose this. If someone advocates some institution or arrangement that has or will or probably will nor necessarily will commit aggression, we oppose it. What is so complicated about this?
Well, historically most governments have taxed but does that settle the matter? After all, one may define “marriage” as the exclusive and committed romantic relationship between two people and protest, well, since adultery and philandering is rife among these so called married people, so understood marriages have never existed. Those, then, who want what they might and out to be would them insist on renaming it, but to what point? None that I can see.
Semantics is confusing the issue. Some libertarians who oppose aggression notice that certain institutions are inherently unlibertarian, because they are inherently aggressive. By their nature. Agencies that tax. Agencies that war. Agencies that compel membership and loyalty. Agencies that monopolize the business of justice, and who corrupt it and provide such a poor product. The names and labels used are irrelevant.
There is another thing going on here. Much of this, in my view, is turf fighting. By now libertarianism is not just a movement but a sort of industry, seeking clients all over the place—e.g., donors to foundations, institutes, centers and such. (This is even evident in the way they treat one another’s organizations and the people associated with them—often with out and out contempt.) And aside from the good feeling people may enjoy from thinking themselves to be the pure at heart among all the rest who are, well, not so pure, willing to bend a bit here or there, the title to being the holiest libertarian of them all can gain one some coins, too.
I think the main issue is for people to try to sort out fundamental libertarian principles and their application.
There is, finally, the proclivity of many people who chime in on what a certain religious, political, ethical, artistic or philosophical movement really is all about to wish to have their way of understanding it to be the superior, even the only, way. This one-size-fits-all mentality isn’t confined to libertarians but they, perhaps more than others, may feel more at home with such a motive since it fits the silly version of individualism: Doing it my way, just because, well, it’s my way. This view comes to such folks, I believe, more comfortably, since they aren’t bound by various notions of duty to the team or the like. (Yet a little prudence might inform them that hanging in there together, a friendly fashion, may fend off being hanged individually.)
A call for civility and caution and humility is to be welcome; but there is nothing at all wrong with having principles, with proclaiming them, with debating them.
In my humble view these acrimonious, pseudo-moralistic, name-calling fights among defenders of human liberty do more damage then service to the central purpose, namely, to make headway and to contain the statists everywhere.
Well, Tibor, this could be, though i don’t agree w/ your premise. In some disputes you have holier-than-thou beltway types who yell “racist” at the slightest provocation; the others defend themselves. I would never equate them. I woudl also not ever blame the victim–us victims of statism–for how we respond to it. If we have more statism it is not our fault, it is the fault of statists and those who advocate statism.
- Published: June 7, 2005 2:47 PM
My comment on another Mises blog thread:
- Stephan Kinsella
- Tim Sandefur has a case of the vapors due to my little comment–he replied hysterically here. First, he gets indigant that I called him ignorant of federalism. But I did not: I said “many libertarians display disregard for or ignorance of the federalist aspect of our Constitution….” Sandefur is obviously not ignorant of federalism. I think he mistakenly disregards or dismisses it, however. And he thinks I give it too much import. Wow, two libertarians disagreeing! Alert the media.He also completely ignores my Uganda analogy. The Uganda analogy shows that choosing how to word the description of the Supreme Court’s ruling reveals one’s agenda or biases.Anyway, Sandefur does not even deny that he uses the word “government” in this context as is quite often done by people who are not even aware that the Constitution used to have a federalist structure, where the bill of rights really limited only the feds. In 1795, for example, it would have been inaccurate and misleading to say that “The First Amendment prevents government from infringing your right to free speech.” Rather, it prevents the *federal government* from doing so–this makes perfect sense, because it’s a provision of the federal constitution. A corporate charter or articles that is used to define the corporation’s rights and powers might have a provision saying that *it* cannot do certain things; it woudl be absurd if this charter purported to limit what other corporations can do. Likewise, the federal Constitution is primarily concerned with placing limits on the powers granted to this newly-established, sui-generis entity.
And because the Constitution was like a compact between States, the original parties on the international sphere that created this sui generis entity, there are a few provisions specifying what the States may not do–so long as they are party to this compact and union, that is. None of this is really hard to grasp; I believe Sandefur does grasp it, he just rejects it in favor of libertarian centralism and naive utopianism. I respect his disagreement, but a disagreement it is.
He wants to insist over and over that I and others are “dishonest” for not accepting his radical, innovative, and agenda-driven Jaffa-ite construction of our founding and the Fourteenth Amendment. There can be no doubt whatsoever that it is at least *debatable* whether his view, or the more decentralist view of, say, Kilpatrick, is correct. To imply that the case is open and shut, as Sandefur does, is what is dishonest.
To elaborate further: Sandefur writes:
“In the mind of these libertarian centralists, our entire national legal system is like a big pyramid, with the feds and its Supreme Court at the ‘top.’” … This is absolutely absurd.
But it is *not* absurd: I do believe this is how Sandefur views things. He and other libertarians, and most Objectivists, want things all nice and neat and tidy. They want there to be a “single, final decisionmaker”; the thought of 50 sovereigns loosely confederated only partly governed by a weak central state that is also governed by the states (vertical checks and balances, not just horizontal) bugs them; it’s just too messy and anarchic and all–there’s no guarantee, you see, of a final, or correct, decision. Heavens, there might be different results in each state! Of course, the centralists for some reason are not bothered by the idea that the uniform, final decision issued by the 9 men in black in DC has no guarantee of being right either. Sandefur likes aspects of federalism, sure–the fact that the central, national super-state overlord of the mere geographic provinces or divisions that it generously and quaintly still refers to as “states” allows these states to experiment, and to provide even “greater” rights than the central state decrees as a floor. Wow. We should be so grateful.
The thing is, I really believe most libertarian centralists would much prefer a normal government like in the rest of the world where there is a hierarchical “pyramid” like structure, with the central state at top, and various local governments below. Sure, they might want decentralized decisions where possible; but they ultimately want the central authority to be able to make national legislation and have centralized judicial review of all local laws. It’s so much more efficient and easy that way to have the feds just impose libertarian laws on the nation as a whole, rather than having to do it one state at a time–on that day just around the corner when we libertarians will start being asked what laws we would like passed next. Yeah. Right.
The truth is these libertarian centralists OCD-like desire for uniformity and central command and control and “nice, neat, final” decisions in the case of disputes and appeals implies they have to favor one-world government–as indeed they admit, when pressed–see, e.g., the comments of Objectivist Bidinotto here.
And how can these centralists deny they really would love to see a one-world libertarian government. These are people who generally favor the US as the world’s policeman, basically assuming overlord status over other states; these are the people who favored the attack by Lincoln on a separation nation. How much easier all this would be if the US took over the UN completely and just asserted ultimate domination over the world, and could just pass a law directly imposing control on countries or localities, instead of having to go to war–once the law is passed, it’s just a police action, like the feds marching on Selma. And we see the initial beginnings of this in the US resolutions on Iraq (like world authoirty laws), which it then enforced itself against the defiant locality (Iraq).
Sandefur goes on:
The Supreme Court in did hold that government—all government, local, state, and federal—can seize private property through eminent domain and give it to developers.
Sure. And it would also fail to prevent Canada from doing this too. So?
The Court made no distinction between different levels of government in the case, and so my reference to the case also makes no such distinction.
Sure. My point is that “government” is used quite often by libertarians who simply do not care about the distinction between the feds and states, for purposes of limitations in the Constitution, in a way that does not distinguish between them. Sure, the S. Ct didn’t distingish–it has obliterated federalism! That is my point. And Sandefur and the centralists are perfectly fine with this. It does not bother him. In fact he and others of his ilk are driven to apoplexy and accusations of dishonesty when other libertarians like me simply point out the federalist nature of our Constitution implies that limits in that document are generally limits on the federal government but not state governments. That is why careless statements like “The Constitution prevents government from violating your rights” etc. are often misleading.
What’s more, I go on in my article to detail how states can prevent the abuse of eminent domain thanks to our federalist structure. How can Kinsella accuse me of ignorance about the subject when the entire subject of my article is the way states are dealing with the Kelo decision by passing (or not passing) state-level eminent domain reform?
I didn’t; I believe Sandefur *disregards* the federalist distinctions in the Constitution, when he adopts the state’s view of the Fourteenth Amendment and Lincoln’s vie of the original nature of the union. This is a legitimate debate; but Sandefur won’t see it this way. Why? Probably because of what motivates him to so zealously and easily –for a libertarian–accept the state’s views, the views that endorse central power. It is a type of political correctness combined with the OCD desire for finality and neatness and order: it is the buying into the state’s version of the bad, racist states and the “need” of the feds to step in, like a wise father, and change things, say, with civil rights laws, etc. In Sandefur’s mind you have to be racist to dislike the civil rights laws or the Civil War; you have to be a “defender” of the Confederacy’s cause in order to object to the legality, morality, or constitutionality of Lincoln’s War. It is a view utterly bereft of charity or sincerity, since his own view is so intertwined with the PC views of the “respectable” cocktail party incrementalist, pragmatic set.
In any event, for whatever reason, Sandefur does disregard federalism. He disagrees with our view of it. Why is this insulting, or even false, of me to say? If I were Sandefur, I’d happily agree–“Yes, I disregard federalism, because it largely ended in 1865” or whatever.
My comments were pointing to Sandefur’s genericized use of “government” as yet another example of the consolidationist mindset, the centralizing opposition to the idea of the US as a true federation. As Sandefur really does hold these views–he admits as much here–I fail to see why he launches into vilification and apoplexy when this is mentioned. I’m not ashamed of my views; I’m happy to stand up and admit them, when challenged. Yes, I’m an anarchist. Yes, I think the Civil War was immoral and unconstitutional. Yes, I think there was a constitutional right to secede. No, I don’t “support” the CSA, nor am I neo-confederate; in fact I personally dislike the rebel-flag waving yahoos and the worship of civil war memorabilia and the like. But hey, that’s just me. The cocktail party set sees someone from Louisiana not toeing the line so they naturally assume he’s a good ole’ boy redneck neoconfederate or something. Whatever.
But he’s led into this embarrassing display of ignorance by his belief—utterly without constitutional justification—that “the states are supposed to be supreme over and above the feds” and that they are “the parties to the compact that created that unique entity.”
I’d be curious as to Sandefur’s response to Kilpatrick, or the Kentucy and Virgina Resolves. Even if he disagrees, calling the adoption of this view “dishonest” is itself dishonest. It is in fact a reasonable view of matters, even if it is not uncontroversial–as is Sandefur’s Jaffaism.
As I’ve explained many times in the past, states are not parties to the constitutional compact, and states are not supreme over the federal government.
Wow, Sandefur has explained it–that settles it, I guess! No one bother to read Kilpatrick or the Kentucky Resolution–it’s been “proved” to be irrelevant now! Nobody look–!
- Published: January 5, 2007 5:13 PM