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David Kelley on the Necessity of Government

From a Facebook post:

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In a classic article in 1974, Objectivist David Kelley set forth a concise argument for the minarchist view of the necessity of government (https://fee.org/articles/the-necessity-of-government/).

In this interview by minarchist Jan Helfeld, Kelley briefly discusses his views on the state — stating basically that we need a state because with multiple defense agencies, there might be war, because there might be disagreement. So, a state is justified, because it is necessary, and it is necessary, because the possibility of disagreement and conflict and war means it is necessary to have one single agency that has the ultimate, final say-so.

Of course, as I pointed out in an anarchy-vs-minarchy debate with Kelley’s colleague at PorcFest last year, which Kelley moderated (http://www.stephankinsella.com/…/kol183-stephan-kinsella-v…/), this would imply we need a one-world government — I’m sure Kelley recognizes this difficulty, which is probably why he asked Thomas to respond to this objection during our debate (of course, Thomas couldn’t answer this objection).

Another problem with this view is that there is no guarantee this minimal state would be *right* in case of a dispute with the smaller agencies it is able to suppress–mere “finality” is not a goal of libertarian justice; there would also need to be a guarantee that the “final” decisions of this one-world state are just, or, at least, more just than what its competitors might have decided. And of course such a guarantee is impossible–especially when this state has monopoly power and no competition….

In any case, at the very end of this video linked below, Kelley also points out that funding for a minimal state is a difficult issue. He notes that Ayn Rand also believed a minimal state was justified and necessary, but since she opposed aggression (what she called “the initiation of force”), and since taxation is obviously aggression–her view was that the state has to be funded voluntarily–i.e., taxation by the minimal state is impermissible.

Kelley says he disagrees with Rand on this — i.e., he seems to be in favor not only of the the minimal state, not only in favor of the state’s right to use violence to outlaw competing defense agencies, and apparently the state’s right to become the sole state in the world (so that it can have the “final say” and prevent war) — but it can also tax its … customers and force them to fund it. (And Helfeld says he agrees with Kelley.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58x4DuLmmRA&app=desktop

h/t Jack Criss

Upate: My previous “debate” with Helfeld on anarchy is here:http://www.stephankinsella.com/…/kol123-debate-with-jan-he…/

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • William Dwyer May 22, 2016, 4:21 pm

    Kinsella says that the necessity of a government “would imply we need a one-world government.” No it wouldn’t! All that is necessary is that the monopoly on retaliatory force exist within a defined geographical area.

    The problem with anarchism is that competing defense agencies occupy the same geographical area, which inevitably leads to jurisdictional conflicts. Under anarchism, there is no exclusive jurisdictional domain for each defense agency. They all claim the same jurisdiction. But if you had different states, each with its own jurisdictional monopoly over a defined geographical area, you would avoid these jurisdictional conflicts.

    Kinsella also says that Another problem with [a government] is that there is no guarantee this minimal state would be *right* in case of a dispute with the smaller agencies it is able to suppress–mere “finality” is not a goal of libertarian justice . . .” But that’s true for any private defense agency with its own legal system. The only road to a truly just society is education.

    Kinsella also argues that “there would also need to be a guarantee that the ‘final’ decisions of this one-world state are just . . .” Of course, there would be no “one world state,” if only because it wouldn’t be practical. He continues: . . . or, at least, more just than what its competitors might have decided. And of course such a guarantee is impossible–especially when this state has monopoly power and no competition….”

    There can be no “competition” when the use of force is involved. The very concept of “competition” implies freedom of choice; it implies the absence of coercion; but force by its very nature negates freedom of choice. Two private defense agencies fighting each other are not “allowing” freedom of competition. Each is trying to “outlaw” the other.

  • anonymous May 22, 2016, 4:56 pm

    There is one minarchist argument for the State and for taxation that is much better than Kelley’s: a State is necessary because anarchists need to have fun.

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