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Question about the feasibility of anarcho/libertarianism

Email exchange:

Hey Stephan,

(Preface: I think I agree with you “in principle” on things anarchy/libertarian)

Quick question that I’d appreciate an answer to:
Setup: I’ve heard it said that the problem with minarchism is that any State will always turn into a big corrupt State.
The libertarian (read: anarchist) criticism of the state is not that it is big or corrupt. All states are too big and all states are “corrupt.” It’s not as if a small state is okay but a big one is bad. Even minarchists admit this: http://www.stephankinsella.com/2009/05/ayn-rand-endorses-big-government/
The explanation is that minarchism requires a certain percentage of the population to maintain a belief and conviction about minarchism (“you now have a Republic… if you can keep it”), and that this is just not possible in reality – at least not for very long – given human nature, which generally leans Leftist/Statist for various reasons.
That’s not my explanation. I think the state does rest on public consent, but this includes all types of states, even the mini-states favored by mini-statists. See http://www.stephankinsella.com/2010/02/swinkels-and-hoppe-on-the-tacit-support-of-the-state/
I don’t think Minarchy is stable at all. Any state that is “small” is going to grow. This is part of its nature. On this see Hoppe. The minarchists may hope and pray that such a dangerous beast that they establish, a minimal state, can be constrained from becoming larger, by a written constitution or by public opinion, but this is foolish. Paper constitutions don’t prevent tyranny, when the state itself can interpret its own limits. And public opinion doens’t matter–the logic of a state is to seize power. The populace, if it thinks a mini-state is justified, has no sound ideological basis to oppose its expansion. They are already confused. The idea that we can finally reach libertopia in the form of a mini-state, if the people finally undersatnd that a state is necessary but only a mini-state, is ridiculous.

The anarchist idea does not require such unrealistic assumptions. If minarchy were reached it would be on the path from large- to smaller states; why the populace would stop at minarchy instead of keeping going is a mystery (see for example the situation presented in L. Neil Smith’s novels The Gallatin Divergence and the Probability Broach, showing a Congress that meets only every few years, and is in the process of winding down). Minarchy and anarchy are totally different. It is not even imaginable how minarchy would be reached or what it would look like; no surprise there has never been a minarchy. But there has been anarchy–see Rothbard, Casey, David Friedman.
The minarchist position must be taught; it is usually not a natural impulse or conclusion.  In the best example we have – the American experiment – which was blessed uniquely with a relatively empty expanse of land, a small homogeneous group of people, the institutional memory of the evils of a large State, and a unifying rally point of liberty especially against the State, we got about 200 years down the road until things collapsed back into the normalcy of big corrupt States.
Wow. This is not how anarchist libertarians view it at all. The US government was horrible from the beginning — from 1789. Hell, even from 1776. Even before. The Constitution was a centralizing coup. http://www.stephankinsella.com/2009/08/rockwell-on-hoppe-on-the-constitution-as-expansion-of-government-power/
It went “downhill” upon the ratification of the Constitution; hell man, we had slavery, and a civil war coming! Aliens and seditions acts, women could not own property, etc. It was not fucking libertarian! The Constitution authorized war, slavery, blah blah blah blah blah. This myth we have been taught that the Constitution and the Founding Fathers were proto-libertarian–nonsense!!
Any future attempts at such a thing will not have many of those critical blessings, as they are probably now lost forever as possibilities; it would be an even more upstream battle.  So it seems obvious that minarchism is probably never going to be a reality, or at least not for very long if ever again it gets as good of a shot.
But the reason is not for the reasons you adduce. First, we never had minarchy. the US was nor minarchistic in the slightest. This is libertarian fanboi Randroid phantasy. Second, minarchy is literally impossible. What does it even mean? A limited state? All states are limited. So what? All states are criminal. That’s what matters. Sure, some are worse are larger than others but none are “minimal”! Why would they be? Why is it in their interest to be?
And let’s say an anarchist state could only last a short while. I agree here w/ Rothbard:
https://wiki.mises.org/wiki/Essay:Inevitability_of_government: “It is argued that if the State is abolished, it will merely be reestablished. Murray Rothbard argues that this is unlikely because any gang of bandits attempting to establish a new state would not be considered legitimate by a public that had tasted true liberty and was no longer being subjected to government propaganda. He further states, “But suppose — just suppose — that despite all these handicaps and obstacles, despite the love for their new-found freedom, despite the inherent checks and balances of the free market, suppose anyway that the State manages to reestablish itself. What then? Well, then, all that would have happened is that we would have a State once again. We would be no worse off than we are now, with our current State. And, as one libertarian philosopher has put it, ‘at least the world will have had a glorious holiday.'”[1] “
Question: Why would the libertarian anarchist position be any less subject to this critique?
Because first, if anarchy is achieved, that’s good even if it’s short-lived. Same is not true of minarchy, which is still unlibertarian, criminal and statist. Anarchy is not doomed to failure; minarchy is.
Even if one agrees with its principles, must we admit that it too requires a certain percentage of the population to maintain a belief and conviction about it in order for it to ever be a reality for any length of time?
Yes. Quite true of anarchy. But then we need a certain percentage NOW of the populace, to be “basically civilized,” to have the degree of civilization that we do. And we do. Can it go higher? That’s an empirical question. But it has nothing to do with the distinction between mini-statism and anarchism. Anarchism rests on the notion that aggression is illegitimate. Minarchism does not, since it legitimizes the state, the agency of institutionalized aggression.
And doesn’t it seem that it is even less of a possibility than minarchism, because it defies even more natural impulses with the human generally?
First, no. Second: so what. It may be unlikely for us to achieve a rape- or murder-free society. We still condemn these actions and recognize that they are wrong. We don’t say “oh well, because rape is inevitable, we are wrong to say it’s wrong! Silly us!”
I understand that some may say these impulses within human nature are actually caused by Statist realities, but given that States are a reality now
That’s a weird way of saying it. There are states, that is true. Not sure what you mean by Capitalizing States, or by saying they “are” a “reality” “now”. So what? Disease, mortality, are “realities now”. The possibility of private crime is a “reality now.” So real men recognize this and take steps to deal with it.
, and the impulses would need to be eliminated beyond the threshold in order to create an anarchist pocket like the American minarchist experiment
There was never a minarchist experiment in America. Tell the African slaves this silly theory.
, and the minarchist experiment didn’t work, why would the anarchist push ever get any farther down the road?
Who knows if it would? We support anarchy not because it’s likely, but because it’s right.
Wouldn’t it always suffer the same fate as minarchism? My brother [] is always telling me that the Founders made one mistake: they formed a State. While I agree that this is a mistake in principle, isn’t the reality for both the minarchist/anarchist positions that any interest in creating more Statists is so concentrated whereas the interest in creating limited or anti-Statists is so diffused that the Statist agenda will always win out over time?
Thanks in advance if you have a minute to reply!!
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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • August Hurtel May 27, 2016, 1:21 pm

    The real problem is that we are for private property.
    An owner is a ruler.
    Those that do well at owning end up ruling over those who are not.

    The modern state is against private property. The bureaucrat makes his living making rules. The rule making must necessarily redistribute wealth from the owners to the bureaucrats in the name of the ‘oppressed’, generally making everyone worse off than they were before.

    • Dave June 2, 2016, 4:49 pm

      “That [Things can always get worse] may be true, but I don’t think this justified aggression.”
      I didn’t say it did, but Rothbard’s microanalysis implies that the experiment comes at no risk or cost. This is not strictly correct. Whether we face the risks and costs willingly or not is another question.

      “You seem to be talking about strategy. My view of anarchy is not bound up in activism or strategy.”
      Well, yes and no. If minarchism could actually eliminate aggression, we would have no objection to it. If the organizations that compose the state could be reformed so that they allowed opt out and no one was ever coerced, yet everyone preferred to continue with things more or less as they are, the minarchists could accomplish something that would satisfy me. I see this as unlikely in the extreme but not a logical impossibility. Maybe I am stretching that “more or less” farther than you will credit, but I am making a conceptual claim, not a prediction. Back in reality, a reformed aggressionless state could not possibly resemble the status quo very much, though I don’t claim to know what it might actually look like.

      “[That] does not mean anarchy “shares a problem” with minarchy.”
      It doesn’t share the conceptual problem, that’s true. But I don’t want to call it just a strategy problem, and the problem I am thinking of we share with the minarchists. More of a research program than a strategy. We will need skills and knowledge that we currently lack. The minarchists need the same skills and knowledge, they just want to lead with political reform, while I think that if there is any hope for them at all, they would need to lead with innovation and follow up with political reform after people know what the possibilities are.
      We need to build the society that makes the state obsolete and we don’t yet know how. I know what not to do, I need to know what to do. I’m confident we can figure it out, but if it was easy someone would have done it already.

    • Dave June 2, 2016, 5:30 pm

      Rulers claim to own people. An owner is not a ruler.

  • Dave June 1, 2016, 1:04 pm

    “suppose anyway that the State manages to reestablish itself. […] We would be no worse off than we are now, with our current State.”

    Things can always get worse.

    Anarchism and minarchism share a problem, which is that we all have been exposed to the old paradigm that it is hard to shake. We can only imagine proceeding by imagining our target and using politics or revolution to get there. There is a third way that is much better, and that both anarchists and minarchists can support while we trial and error our way forward. The political path is well guarded and probably hits a dead end (we can’t know for sure). The path of violent revolution is well guarded and goes a long way in the wrong direction. I’m not sure what to call the third path. It is indirect but every step matters. I’m thinking of things like Bitcoin, Bittorrent, cell411, arcade city, open bazaar, etc.
    Technology seems to hand as many tools to our opponents as it does to us. But we have a big advantage in cooperation, empathy, inspiration and transparency. Kids today are learning how to make things happen. They will not settle for letting bureaucrats tell them they can’t fix the environment, they can’t find good jobs for the poor, they can’t succeed, they can’t get along with each other.

    • Stephan Kinsella June 2, 2016, 2:55 pm

      “Things can always get worse.”

      That may be true, but I don’t think this justified aggression.

      “Anarchism and minarchism share a problem, which is that we all have been exposed to the old paradigm that it is hard to shake. We can only imagine proceeding by imagining our target and using politics or revolution to get there.”

      You seem to be talking about strategy. My view of anarchy is not bound up in activism or strategy. The question of how to get there or whether we can, is separate from what it means to be anarchist. Basically we are libertarians and we oppose aggression–we recognize that it’s unjustifiable. That more or less directly implies the state is an illegitimate agency. That’s anarchy. It has nothing to do with “how we get there” etc., and it does not mean anarchy “shares a problem” with minarchy.

      “I’m not sure what to call the third path. It is indirect but every step matters. I’m thinking of things like Bitcoin, Bittorrent, cell411, arcade city, open bazaar, etc.”

      Sure. Some form of agorism, incrementalism. Phyles. Social networking. Peer to peer.
      Technology seems to hand as many tools to our opponents as it does to us. But we have a big advantage in cooperation, empathy, inspiration and transparency. Kids today are learning how to make things happen. They will not settle for letting bureaucrats tell them they can’t fix the environment, they can’t find good jobs for the poor, they can’t succeed, they can’t get along with each other.”

      • Dave June 2, 2016, 5:31 pm

        not sure how/why, but my reply to Stephan ended up in the wrong place. (see above?)

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