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The Irrelevance of the Impossibility of Anarcho-Libertarianism

The Irrelevance of the Impossibility of Anarcho-LibertarianismMises Blog (Aug. 20, 2009) (archived comments below)

A 1982 article, The Impossibility of anarcho-capitalism, was recently called to my attention. In it, the author, one Tony Hollick, argues that the “components” of anarcho-capitalism are:

  1. A belief that a fully-fledged free-market private property based social order can be realised and maintained without the existence of a single, finally arbitrary system of lawmaking and enforcement which asserts jurisdiction over non-consenting parties.
  2. A preference for the imagined advantages of that social order however conceived.
  3. A willingness to advocate attempts to instantiate it as an actual experiment in the more or less foreseeable future.

This type of argument is typical of those who want to argue for states and the aggression states commit, while still adopting the libertarian label. It is a way of changing to subject away from the aggression they favor, by insinuating the presumption that the anarchist is for something, and thus needs to prove it before we abandon the current (statist) order and “adopt” the system known as anarchy. This approach tries to color anarchy as just one of many prima facie equally valid competing possible systems. Anarchists have the burden of proving we should “adopt” it just like a socialist bears the burden of proving we should adopt socialism. Thus, it is not surprising Hollick concludes, “One can only be struck by the similarities between ‘socialism’ and ‘anarchism’. Partisans of every kind rush to show that their vision is uniquely realisable; and the visions cover the entire range of mutually contradictory systems and practices.”

But, of course, anarchists don’t advocate a “substitute system”. We are not for something, other than respect for rights. Rather, we are an-archist, “without (belief in) (political) rulers.” We simply are not persuaded that political action is justified. This is because we see that states by their nature commit aggression–and as we are libertarians and against aggression (see my What Libertarianism Is), we are thus against states.

In other words, to be an anarcho-libertarian is simply to be opposed to aggression, and to recognize that states are inherently aggressive. It does not mean, for example, as Hollick asserts, that we anarchists, qua-anarchist, maintain “A belief that a fully-fledged free-market private property based social order can be realised and maintained without [whatever].” The anarchist is not someone who has a belief about “what will work”. Rather, he is someone who opposes aggression in all its forms. As I explained in What It Means to be an Anarcho-Capitalist:

Conservative and minarchist-libertarian criticism of anarchy on the grounds that it won’t “work” or is not “practical” is just confused. Anarchists don’t (necessarily) predict anarchy will be achieved – I for one don’t think it will. But that does not mean states are justified.

Consider an analogy. Conservatives and libertarians all agree that private crime (murder, robbery, rape) is unjustified, and “should” not occur. Yet no matter how good most men become, there will always be at least some small element who will resort to crime. Crime will always be with us. Yet we still condemn crime and work to reduce it.

Is it logically possible that there could be no crime? Sure. Everyone could voluntarily choose to respect others’ rights. Then there would be no crime. It’s easy to imagine. But given our experience with human nature and interaction, it is safe to say that there will always be crime. Nevertheless, we still proclaim crime to be evil and unjustified, in the face of the inevitability of its recurrence. So to my claim that crime is immoral, it would just be stupid and/or insincere to reply, “but that’s an impractical view” or “but that won’t work,” “since there will always be crime.” The fact that there will always be crime – that not everyone will voluntarily respect others’ rights – does not mean that it’s “impractical” to oppose it; nor does it mean that crime is justified. It does not mean there is some “flaw” in the proposition that crime is wrong.

Likewise, to my claim that the state and its aggression is unjustified, it is disingenuous and/or confused to reply, “anarchy won’t work” or is “impractical” or “unlikely to ever occur.” The view that the state is unjustified is a normative or ethical position. The fact that not enough people are willing to respect their neighbors’ rights to allow anarchy to emerge, i.e., the fact that enough people (erroneously) support the legitimacy of the state to permit it to exist, does not mean that the state, and its aggression, are justified.

In other words, it just won’t do for Hollick to attack anarcho-libertarianism by arguing we haven’t shown that “a fully-fledged free-market private property based social order can be realised and maintained without [whatever]”. In fact, since anarcho-libertarianism just means stringent opposition to aggression, to attack anti-aggressionism just is to defend aggression. And you can’t justify aggression by alleging that libertarians have not proved that a private property order can “work.” What kind of argument is that? “Sir, why are you robbing me? Why are you entitled to do this?” “Why, because you haven’t proved that a private property order can work, that’s why!”

Update:

Stephan KinsellaAuthor Profile Page

Russ, “I believe that anarchism will result in more violations of rights than a minarchist state will, hence I reject it.”

This is a pretty way of covering up the fact that you are advocating aggression. Instead of saying outright, “I favor some aggression to stop worse aggression; to make an omelet you have to break a few eggs,” you say “I reject anarchy.” Sounds nicer. You are doing just what Hollick does: you set it up as if the anarchist is making a case for which the burden is on him to defend. As if he has to justify his view that aggression is unjustified.

What you are saying is that you are against a situation in which there is no aggression, because you think if there is no aggression, that will somehow result in … more violations of rights than occur where there is institutionalized aggression. I see. Got it.

Let me ask you this, Russ: are you against all private crime (aggression), or only against some private crime? I mean, how can one be against all private crime–that’s “naive,” right? After all, who really thinks that would “work”? Who really thinks we will ever have a crime-free world? How can you oppose something if it is bound to occur? Right?

Me, I despise crime and criminals, and apologists for either.

Published: August 20, 2009 9:51 PM

Stephan KinsellaAuthor Profile Page

Jay, You’re welcome.

That still leaves me with the desire to apply practical strategies to weaken the state, discredit statists, and in general promote liberty and destroy or limit government as much as possible (even if I am pretty sure that we’ll always have the state in some form, at least till the eternal state).

Exactly. This is a perfect attitude. Of course most of us want to do what we can to be on the side of right, to advance liberty, even if it’s a doomed or losing battle. After all, we are libertarians in the first place because we have chosen the values of peace, civilization, etc., even though our world infringes these all the time, and can be expected to for a long time. But of course there is a role for strategy, tactics, and activism. It’s just important to keep in mind the distinction to ward off disingenuous attacks by statists in libertarian clothing.

Where are the best pracitical suggestions along those lines – if any of you know and are willing to share?

My personal view is that in the long run the only that that can work is economic literacy. Thus we need to educate people; and one way to do it is to support the Mises Institute, and to keep spreading a consistent, principled message of liberty. We can keep learning, both to improve ourselves and to improve our ability to persuade. And by improving ourselves we help present “one improved unit” to society, thus helping to win over people to our other views by the power of attraction.

I would recommend not deluding oneself that we can “win” once and for all; or that winning is all that matters. That way lies the perils of self-delusion, compromise, despair, disengagement, and activism (see my The Trouble with Libertarian Activism).

I would recommend fighting because you want to do the right thing, be on the right side, and make even incremental progress. I would suggest taking heart in Nock’s idea of “the Remnant“–“In his 1936 article “Isaiah’s Job”, which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Nock expressed his complete disillusionment with the idea of reforming the current system. Believing that it would be impossible to convince any large portion of the general population of the correct course and opposing any suggestion of a violent revolution, Nock instead argued that libertarians should focus on nurturing what he called “the Remnant”. The Remnant, according to Nock, consisted of a small minority who understood the nature of the state and society, and who would become influential only after the current dangerous course had become thoroughly and obviously untenable, a situation which might not occur until far into the future.”

As for self-education and education of others, one could do worse than to start with bibliographies such as “Hans-Hermann Hoppe on Anarcho-Capitalism” and “Lew Rockwell on Reading for Liberty”; see also my The Greatest Libertarian Books.

So: educate yourself; excel; attract; speak out; be principled; join like-minded libertarians; persuade; fight for liberty!

Published: August 20, 2009 10:39 PM

Stephan Kinsella Author Profile Page

Jay, also see Top Ten Books of Liberty and Other Top Ten Lists of Libertarian Books. And you might also find of interest my post Why I’m a Libertarian — or, Why Libertarianism is Beautiful:

In a recent email, Walter Block wrote, responding some pessimistic comments I had about our libertarian movement:

“Dear Stephan: I never feel like dropping out. Never. No matter what. To me, libertarianism is a most beautiful thing, right up there with Mozart and Bach. Non corborundum illegitimi.

I replied with some comments, and Walter encouraged me to post them, so here they are, lightly edited:

Walter’s email got me to thinking about why I’m a libertarian–why libertarians are libertarian. What is it about us that drives us, that makes us passionate advocates of it, and intensely interested in it? Some of us have been self-indulgent enough to write up how we became libertarians (e.g., my How I Became A Libertarian); but I don’t mean exactly that. I mean what is it about it that you love; that drives you; that attracts you?

Walter’s comment that libertarianism is beautiful struck a chord with me; I think I’d never thought of it that way before. It seemed just, and fair, and right, but beautiful–? but then, justice, and rightness, and fairness, and goodness are beautiful.

I think I’m a libertarian because for some reason I hate injustice; I hate bullies; I hate inconsistency; I love fairness and logical consistency and treating people correctly. I like answering the question asked, and not dodging issues: if someone asks how should this person be treated, I try to answer that question, rather than advert to some Marxian notion of utopia.

I like the ruthless logic of libertarianism and its unflinching honesty: how we are unafraid to say that people have a right to be greedy, or selfish, or rich, or not to hire people because of their race–because it is their property. I like the in-your-faceness of it … when it is simply a matter of venting or justice to hurl in the face of a soma-ridden mainstreamer the solid, bracing truth about things, even if it will do no good. I like libertarianism–I love libertarianism–because I think it is the outcome of goodness applied to human interaction. I do agree that libertarianism is beautiful. It is refreshing and cleansing to know that I am willing to respect the rights of all who will respect mine; and to take the responsibility to earn my own way, and to pay for my own mistakes–and the right to profit from my successes. I am a libertarian because it is obviously good, and I would rather be good than evil; and the more good, the better.

***

Thoughts of others on your reasons for why you’re a libertarian are welcome in the comments.

Published: August 20, 2009 10:48 PM

[Mises blog cross-post]

 

Archived comments:

{ 106 comments }

Russ August 20, 2009 at 9:38 pm

“The anarchist is not someone who has a belief about “what will work”. Rather, he is someone who opposes aggression in all its forms.”

This is why most people don’t take anarcho-libertarianism seriously, even libertarians. For me, the most important political consideration is that we should have as little violations of rights as possible. I believe that anarchism will result in more violations of rights than a minarchist state will, hence I reject it. In other words, given my goal of having as little violations of rights as possible, anarchism “won’t work”, at least not as well as minarchism, IMHO. If I were to decide that I were against “aggression in all its forms”, including a minarchist state, even though I believe that not having a minarchist state will lead to more of the aggression that I am supposedly against, that would make me nothing more than a dogmatist. It would make me somebody who cares more about being doctrinally pure than about the world I live in. In short, it would make me irrelevant.

You might as well have entitled this article “The Irrelevance of Anarcho-Libertarianism”.

bob August 20, 2009 at 9:45 pm

I addressed something like this today.

– Nothing is is this simple unless you’re an ideologue… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_failure
me – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_failure#Austrian
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_failure

It really is that simple.
– No one is denying that government failures exist. My question is, do you deny there can be market failures? I should know this before I bother.
me: There are non-economical results of free markets, such as refusal to share trade secrets or the creation of businesses that fail.

Yet I have seen no evidence to the contrary that shows that a mixed economy or interventionist economy is more efficient than a relatively free market economy.
– That’s a much more thoughtful answer than railing against anything public. Please keep it up.
me: I do rail against anything public. I advocate anarchy.

I simply realize that a free market cannot possibly be a perfect market, due to the persistence of human vice and error. I simply believe removing monopolies on courts and police would better reduce crime, and free competition and true profit-and-loss would better reduce business error.

AnarchyorDeath August 20, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Great piece, Stephen. The more and more I read about Anarcho-Libertarianism, the more I feel better that I educate myself properly to know the difference between right and wrong. Thank you

Stephan Kinsella August 20, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Russ, “I believe that anarchism will result in more violations of rights than a minarchist state will, hence I reject it.”

This is a pretty way of covering up the fact that you are advocating aggression. Instead of saying outright, “I favor some aggression to stop worse aggression; to make an omelet you have to break a few eggs,” you say “I reject anarchy.” Sounds nicer. You are doing just what Hollick does: you set it up as if the anarchist is making a case for which the burden is on him to defend. As if he has to justify his view that aggression is unjustified.

What you are saying is that you are against a situation in which there is no aggression, because you think if there is no aggression, that will somehow result in … more violations of rights than occur where there is institutionalized aggression. I see. Got it.

Let me ask you this, Russ: are you against all private crime (aggression), or only against some private crime? I mean, how can one be against all private crime–that’s “naive,” right? After all, who really thinks that would “work”? Who really thinks we will ever have a crime-free world? How can you oppose something if it is bound to occur? Right?

Me, I despise crime and criminals, and apologists for either.

Gil August 20, 2009 at 10:05 pm

“You are doing just what Hollick does: you set it up as if the anarchist is making a case for which the burden is on him to defend. As if he has to justify his view that aggression is unjustified.” – S. Kinsella.

Why not? Anarcho-Libertarians are postulating what seems to be a near impossible society that hasn’t really existed (certainly not on realistic-sized scale). Why should a Minarchist be wrong about anything when everyone benefits from a crime-free society therefore everyone should chip in? On the other hand, if a Minarchist society has an open emigration system whereby Anarchist can renounce citizenship and leave then it would come extremely close to an Anarcho-Libertarian society anyway.

Jay August 20, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Delightful. That neatens things for me. Thank you. I can certainly agree that I am unhappy with and resist government.

That still leaves me with the desire to apply practical strategies to weaken the state, discredit statists, and in general promote liberty and destroy or limit government as much as possible (even if I am pretty sure that we’ll always have the state in some form, at least till the eternal state).

Where are the best pracitical suggestions along those lines – if any of you know and are willing to share?

Jay August 20, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Gil, I think you are missing his point.

Mr. Kinsella is saying that anarchists believe that aggression is unjustified. They are not proposing a new society, or a new scheme, so it doesn’t really make any sense to criticize the anarchist plan, since there isn’t one.

In other words, anarchists aren’t “Anarcho-Libertarians are postulating what seems to be a near impossible society”. They aren’t postulating anything at all, except that aggression is unjustified.

Of course Mr. Kinsella can speak for himself, and if he has more to say on it, that’s fine with me. But what he said seems perfectly reasonable and clear to me already.

Russ August 20, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Stephan Kinsella wrote:

“This is a pretty way of covering up the fact that you are advocating aggression. Instead of saying outright, “I favor some aggression to stop worse aggression…””

OK, I will say it outright. I favor some aggression to stop worse aggression.

“What you are saying is that you are against a situation in which there is no aggression, because you think if there is no aggression, that will somehow result in … more violations of rights than occur where there is institutionalized aggression. I see. Got it.”

No, I don’t think you do. I am against *anarchy* (not “a situation in which there is no aggression”) because I think “a situation in which there is no aggression” is impossible given human nature. I do think that anarchy, i.e. a situation in which there is no *institutionalized* aggression, will result in more violations of rights than will occur where there is institutionalized aggression. I.e. I am against anarchy because I think it won’t work (at least, not as well as minarchism) at achieving my goal of the least violations of rights possible.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that you desire a world with the least violations of rights possible, and believe that anarchism will result in more total violations of rights than minarchy. If you are then still for anarchy, that means that you are for more violations of rights than is necessary, for the sake of being ideologically pure.

If you desire the least violations of rights possible, then the only way you can *rationally* be an anarchist is if you believe that anarchism will indeed result in less violations of rights than any other “system”. I don’t believe that, that’s all.

“Let me ask you this, Russ: are you against all private crime (aggression), or only against some private crime?”

I am against any political system that results in more crime (private or not doesn’t matter to me) than is necessary. I want to minimize violations of rights, and thus maximize freedom. I just don’t think that anarchism will result in that outcome.

“Me, I despise crime and criminals, and apologists for either.”

Well, I’m sorry to hear that you hate me. I don’t hate you, but I do find it irritating when doctrinaire people like anarcho-libertarians or socialists make the (unattainable) perfect into the enemy of the (attainable) good.

Stephan Kinsella August 20, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Jay, You’re welcome.

That still leaves me with the desire to apply practical strategies to weaken the state, discredit statists, and in general promote liberty and destroy or limit government as much as possible (even if I am pretty sure that we’ll always have the state in some form, at least till the eternal state).

Exactly. This is a perfect attitude. Of course most of us want to do what we can to be on the side of right, to advance liberty, even if it’s a doomed or losing battle. After all, we are libertarians in the first place because we have chosen the values of peace, civilization, etc., even though our world infringes these all the time, and can be expected to for a long time. But of course there is a role for strategy, tactics, and activism. It’s just important to keep in mind the distinction to ward off disingenuous attacks by statists in libertarian clothing.

Where are the best pracitical suggestions along those lines – if any of you know and are willing to share?

My personal view is that in the long run the only that that can work is economic literacy. Thus we need to educate people; and one way to do it is to support the Mises Institute, and to keep spreading a consistent, principled message of liberty. We can keep learning, both to improve ourselves and to improve our ability to persuade. And by improving ourselves we help present “one improved unit” to society, thus helping to win over people to our other views by the power of attraction.

I would recommend not deluding oneself that we can “win” once and for all; or that winning is all that matters. That way lies the perils of self-delusion, compromise, despair, disengagement, and activism (see my The Trouble with Libertarian Activism).

I would recommend fighting because you want to do the right thing, be on the right side, and make even incremental progress. I would suggest taking heart in Nock’s idea of “the Remnant“–”In his 1936 article “Isaiah’s Job”, which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Nock expressed his complete disillusionment with the idea of reforming the current system. Believing that it would be impossible to convince any large portion of the general population of the correct course and opposing any suggestion of a violent revolution, Nock instead argued that libertarians should focus on nurturing what he called “the Remnant”. The Remnant, according to Nock, consisted of a small minority who understood the nature of the state and society, and who would become influential only after the current dangerous course had become thoroughly and obviously untenable, a situation which might not occur until far into the future.”

As for self-education and education of others, one could do worse than to start with bibliographies such as “Hans-Hermann Hoppe on Anarcho-Capitalism” and “Lew Rockwell on Reading for Liberty”; see also my The Greatest Libertarian Books.

I also recommend Ed Stringham’s Anarchy and the Law: The Political Economy of Choice (Peter Leeson’s reviewgoogle book); see also If a Pure Market Economy Is So Good, Why Doesn’t It Exist?: The Importance of Changing Preferences Versus Incentives in Social Change, by Edward P. Stringham and Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Mercatus Center Working Paper No. 09-09 (April 2009).

So: educate yourself; excel; attract; speak out; be principled; join like-minded libertarians; persuade; fight for liberty!

Greg August 20, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Stephan,
Would it be fair to say that the anarcho-libertarian belief that no civil government is morally better than some civil government is held A Priori?

Stephan Kinsella August 20, 2009 at 10:48 pm

Jay, also see Top Ten Books of Liberty and Other Top Ten Lists of Libertarian Books. And you might also find of interest my post Why I’m a Libertarian — or, Why Libertarianism is Beautiful:

In a recent email, Walter Block wrote, responding some pessimistic comments I had about our libertarian movement:

“Dear Stephan: I never feel like dropping out. Never. No matter what. To me, libertarianism is a most beautiful thing, right up there with Mozart and Bach. Non corborundum illegitimi.

I replied with some comments, and Walter encouraged me to post them, so here they are, lightly edited:

Walter’s email got me to thinking about why I’m a libertarian–why libertarians are libertarian. What is it about us that drives us, that makes us passionate advocates of it, and intensely interested in it? Some of us have been self-indulgent enough to write up how we became libertarians (e.g., my How I Became A Libertarian); but I don’t mean exactly that. I mean what is it about it that you love; that drives you; that attracts you?

Walter’s comment that libertarianism is beautiful struck a chord with me; I think I’d never thought of it that way before. It seemed just, and fair, and right, but beautiful–? but then, justice, and rightness, and fairness, and goodness are beautiful.

I think I’m a libertarian because for some reason I hate injustice; I hate bullies; I hate inconsistency; I love fairness and logical consistency and treating people correctly. I like answering the question asked, and not dodging issues: if someone asks how should this person be treated, I try to answer that question, rather than advert to some Marxian notion of utopia.

I like the ruthless logic of libertarianism and its unflinching honesty: how we are unafraid to say that people have a right to be greedy, or selfish, or rich, or not to hire people because of their race–because it is their property. I like the in-your-faceness of it … when it is simply a matter of venting or justice to hurl in the face of a soma-ridden mainstreamer the solid, bracing truth about things, even if it will do no good. I like libertarianism–I love libertarianism–because I think it is the outcome of goodness applied to human interaction. I do agree that libertarianism is beautiful. It is refreshing and cleansing to know that I am willing to respect the rights of all who will respect mine; and to take the responsibility to earn my own way, and to pay for my own mistakes–and the right to profit from my successes. I am a libertarian because it is obviously good, and I would rather be good than evil; and the more good, the better.

***

Thoughts of others on your reasons for why you’re a libertarian are welcome in the comments.

happylee August 21, 2009 at 12:09 am

Stephan Kinsella writes:

I am a libertarian because it is obviously good, and I would rather be good than evil; and the more good, the better.

Amen, brother.

Gil August 21, 2009 at 12:44 am

Jay – zzzzzz. You might as well say “I find all murder unjustifiable”. However that’s a tautology – murder is merely defined as all unjustified killings.

Or to say “you’re against all aggression” is merely topical. Libertarians feels ‘aggressed’ when the government tells them what to do but not private entities:

“I hate guvmint speed limits on public roads but I’ll happily abide by speel limits on private roads even if it’s slower.”

“I hate guvmint restricted areas especially the sign that says ‘all trespassers will be prosecuted’ however I’ll happily stay off private land and understand if I do a jump over a private fence I could get shot and injured but I shouldn’t have done that in the first place.”

“Guvmint can’t restrict my speech in any form in any way but I’ll keep speak when I’m spoken when I’m on private land and I happily understand if I get banned for life from a private cinema for falsely shouting ‘fire’ and causing a panic.”

Some juan August 21, 2009 at 1:29 am

Thank you for that explanation. It is actually quite a shocking admission.

“We know it is impossible to live without the State, but we’ll bitch about the state incessantly anyway.”

Holy crap! Why would anyone want to associate with you professional whiners?

Chuck August 21, 2009 at 2:04 am

Anarchy is not a system! Anarchists are not FOR anything. Anarchists are AGAINST aggression.

*Sighs* It’s depressing how close-minded most people are.

Howard August 21, 2009 at 4:10 am

Hey there,
I don’t know where to post this so I guess I’ll just write here, and would be glad to hear your input / responses.
I’ve been reading Hoppe’s comments on health insurance and mostly agrees with what he says, but one point : “subsidies create more of what is subsidized, that’s why we need to get rid of medicare/medicaid”. That’s obviously true, except that getting old is not something you can control, right ? So what abt old people who can’t pay for hospital ? I mean, I know that would probably be less expensive in a free system but there still are some kinds of diseases whose treatment would be out of reach for most “normal” people or private insurances… or people who haven’t been able to pay for a good insurance… what should happen for them ?
I’m looking forward to reading your responses because I wonder abt them myself although I agree with the whole theory…
Cheers,
H

Andras August 21, 2009 at 5:51 am

Bob:

A failure is when you can or at least you want to do something as you planed and you didn’t. Consequently a “Market Failure” is an oxymoron because the market doesn’t plan. Government does, the government is a human designed organization with specific purpose(s). The market is a spontaneous order a product of human action with no specific purpose, the market has countless different purposes for countless different people. There is no plan, no grand plan so there is nothing to fail in.

Now, the right question is efficiency. The market is not 100% efficient, so if it is let say 80% efficient, people tend to think that those 20% is a failure. No it isn’t. Government also can’t be 100% efficient, but just like in the case of the market if they are only 80% efficient, the remaining 20% is NOT failure.

So what is failure? There is two main reasons why the outcome of a specific plan is not we are expected:

1. Inability to execute the plan.
2. Incorrect assumptions, incorrect theories, incorrect information…

If your efficiency is not at a satisfactory level to execute the plan but you are correct, you fail to execute the plan so there is a failure.
If you are incorrect with your assumptions, theories etc. you fail whatever your efficiency might be (even if it is 100%).

So the general problem with the government is that they have the means to apply incorrect means to achieve a specific plan. Government are here to execute plans for specific purposes, and they fail both because of inefficiency and because of incorrect theories, assumptions. The market know only inefficiency because there is no specific plan to execute. The market is not an equivalent of government nor the government is an equivalent of market. So comparing the inefficiency of the market and of the government doesn’t tell us anything about success or failure.

D. Frank Robinson August 21, 2009 at 6:35 am

Bob said, “I simply realize that a free market cannot possibly be a perfect market, due to the persistence of human vice and error.”

Because humans are not omniscient – morally and epistemologically, then markets must be ‘imperfect’? Is that really what you meant to imply? Surely not.

Reality unfolds largely independently and indifferently to human intention and action. The advantage of uncoerced human action in markets is that it generates the least costly and most precise response to inevitable unintended consequences.

mpolzkill August 21, 2009 at 6:59 am

Russ,

I have a couple cute phrases here: it’s the great majority with their differing “Goldilocks political philosophies” who comprise the “lunatic middle”.

I can understand the Lincolns, the Hitlers and the Pol Pots (I prefer their opposites, of course, the Rothbards, Hoppes, Blocks, Higgs & Kinsellas), but I can’t understand what makes a member of the lunatic middle arrive where they are except conservatism. “Conservatism” in the way that Hayek described it in his great essay on why he isn’t one (though I think he let himself off the hook).

Exactly what do you believe would be the amount and extent of your masters’ supervision that’s juuussst right? It’s probably not so much supervision for you though, right? You’re probably more concerned that your masters keep a close eye on and ready a big stick for (or not so big?) your neighbors or for Germans, Russians or Iranians, etc..

To the guy calling us useless whiners, and on what I think should be today’s practical goal of libertarianism: my goal is simply to convince everyone I know that you only get one mother and one father in this world, if you’re lucky. You have no friends in D.C., you have no true representatives or agents that you can’t fire directly and immediately.

Sukrit August 21, 2009 at 7:48 am

Here’s a similar rant by Oliver Hartwich, where the author calls Hoppe homophobic and a totalitarian.

The sad thing is, this pseudo-scholar is now employed by the Centre for Independent Studies, Australia’s “free-market” think-tank.

Andras August 21, 2009 at 7:53 am

I believe the right question to ask is this:

Why would one need a representative in a body which isn’t here to force somebody’s will on everybody (or at least to the great majority of the people)?

So instead of talking about the necessity of government we should talk about why we (need to) have a government and what should be the job of that government? (just as Hayek said in his essay on why he isn’t a conservative)

I, or any other person for that matter, simply can’t tell you what should be the job of the government, only the law can, but the true law, the law which is a product of human action, not the regulations and granted privileges which are products of human design, a product of legislation and to which we incorrectly (and unfortunately) referring as law.

The truth is that every word in the US constitution which was “written” by the law (we can call it common sense for the sake of being more simple than we actually can be) is great, and that (almost) every word written by the “legislators” (the Founding Fathers if you wish) is bad.

Catawissa Gazetteer August 21, 2009 at 8:02 am

It’s interesting that this discussion of secular religious belief systems can avoid any mention of Christianity. I’m Catholic. Before I have to hear about all of the abuses of the Church (state) let me just say, you’re right. But, I think these abuses just prove the authors point.

The Church serves two primary purposes, one sacramental and one judicial. It is the judicial with which I am concerned.

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Mathew 18:15

The above passage seems to me to describe the real function of the state, that of final arbiter. Due to our fallen nature we need a final arbiter. The problem is that the State (Church), because it is run by those same fallen individuals, cannot seem to limit itself to its God given role. It always overreaches.

I have always believed that the American Constitution came closer to describing the true role of government than any document since the Bible. The idea of government as final arbiter of disputes regarding violation of our Natural Law Rights seemed to me always to be what the framers of the Constitution were striving for.

I think that the rule of subsidiarity as promulgated by the Church, the idea that all solutions to problems should emanate from the lowest level and only move up when no solution can be found pretty nearly fits the mold of libertarianism, or anarcho-libertarianism, if I understand your use of these terms correctly. This does presuppose the existence of a final arbiter, however.

Due to our fallen nature I don’t believe it is possible for us to function without some very limited government. The problem is, how do we keep that government contained? The Catholic Church and its abuses caused the Reformation and the abuses of the American government are about to cause something of an equally historic nature.

scineram August 21, 2009 at 8:03 am

Russ, I would say state aggression is also of a different nature economically.Whatever its form, taxation and regulatoin are quite known in advance, they are expected and can be accounted for, thus they are less hostile to business planning and economic calculation than random thugs stealing all equipment from your bistro.

In light of this I would say NAP does not even logically imply anarchism. The goal of minimizing the destructive effects of aggression, minimizing the harm done by aggression seems to me entirely compatible with “non-aggression”. And whether anarchy accomplishes that then becomes and empirical question.

Ludwing Von Mises August 21, 2009 at 8:14 am

You know who opposed anarchism? Me, Ludwing Von Mises. Guess I’m a statist now.

2nd Amendment August 21, 2009 at 8:16 am

“”Sir, why are you robbing me? Why are you entitled to do this?” “Why, because you haven’t proved that a private property order can work, that’s why!””

Rather, because libertarians have proven that a private property order DOES NOT WORK !

If “Sir” can rob you, it’s because you either don’t have the lethal force necessary to prevent “Sir” from robbing you or you don’t have the will to use said lethal force to stop “Sir” from plundering you.

Actually, libertarians have proven that they don’t have the will to use lethal force to protect their private property. Therefore their private property order does not work.

Ever read a sing saying “Trespassers will be shot” ?
http://www.freewebs.com/biohazard_uk/trespassers%20will%20be%20shot.jpg

Imagine a sign saying: “Taxmen will be shot, surviving taxmen will be shot again” !!!

Since no libertarian is willing to shoot the taxmen and to shoot them twice, then it’s the taxmen who do the looting and the shooting.

This is why private property order has failed and why we all live under a powerful socialist government.

The vast majority of people value life over freedom and so do the vast majority of those who call themselves libertarians.

This is why “Sir” is entitled to rob you and this is why he is doing it.

Because “Sir” is willing to risk his life shooting you if that is what it takes to rob you and “Sir” is not encountering any resistance whatsoever.

The big folly of libertarians is to believe that you can exorcise force from human relationships. You can’t.

Reality is that there will always be bullys willing to use force to take your private property and freedoms away from you. And the reality is that there will always be a vast majority of people willing to obey the bully and to display an “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality towards the bully.

Not only will there always be bullys, but there will always be groupies flocking towards bullies and joining them in their oppresive venture.

The vast majority of people would rather oppress than being oppressed and nobody wants to stand alone against the flock. People look for validation and being alone against all is the most invalidating experience of them all. So nobody will leave the flock and the Bully is the kernel of the flock.

When the flock is big enough, the bully only needs to have a good time and it’s the lower groupies that do the bullying at his place. The bully can even pretend to be a gentleman since he no longer gets his hands dirty. His hierarchical order of groupies do all the dirty job for him.

Switzerland on the other hand demonstrates a people that had the will to die fighting for freedom. If Switzerland remained a free and wealthy country for so long it’s because it’s people were willing to fight to the last in order to defend their independence.

It’s not so true today since now they have yielded to USA’s threat against it’s banking secrecy. Switzerland’s independent will has been broken and it’s safe to admit that it will soon be fleeced by powerful nations like the USA.

First they came for the secrecy, then they’ll come for the currency. Not only will tax “evaders” be forced to pay ransom to the government of USA, but so will Switzerland. Not unlike paying tribute.

Switzerland has lost it’s resolve to fight to the last, shame on Switzerland.

So this is why the private property order does not work, because nobody is willing to defend it.

So “Sir” is perfectly entitled to loot you because nobody resists “Sir”.

“Sir” can therefore pretend he owns you and your property because you offer such weak or no resistance whatsoever.

Just like a settler can capture some wild livestock and claim to own it, because livestock offers no resistance and therefore what among the herd can resist the settler ?

But if we lived in an era of dinosaurs, not many settlers would have claimed ownership of T-Rexes I am sure.

Wether libertarians want to admit it or not, it all bows down to force, violence and coercion.

If you want your private property order to work, FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT and get ready to die !

If you’re not ready to do that, pay your taxes, obey the bully and stop complaining.

One way or the other, it will cost you a fortune anyways, either in taxes or weapons, you can’t keep 100% of what you own or earn.

Unfortunately, mankind is doomed to pay-or-fight.

“Sir” is proving that you private property order does not work becaus “Sir” is taking away your private property and is getting away with it.

What are you libertarians waiting for to prove “Sir” wrong ? Chicken ? Poooaaap pooaaap pooaap !

Brian August 21, 2009 at 8:17 am

Ludwig,

Yes you are a statist. If you oppose anarchism, and advocate the aggressive rule of your organization over others who want no part of it, what else would you be?

groove me August 21, 2009 at 8:37 am

Anarchy is certainly achievable. There was a time when most of Europe was under kings. Society had a mass transformation and now it is all democratic-socialism. There is no reason to believe this couldn’t happen with anarchy as well.

Also, how can anarchy possibly violate more rights than a state? Even a minarchist one? States are well known to commit the most crime in society. It’s the natural result when you have such a highly concentrated collection of resources. Would there be crime in anarchy? Of course. But not even close to the scale of government crime.

2nd Amendment August 21, 2009 at 8:38 am

The only way Ludwig can impose his aggressive rule ove others who want no part of it is because “others who want no part of it” are not willing to oppose this aggressive rule by using an aggressive resistance.

By definition, the bully, the brute only understand force and since force is the only thing libertarians don’t understand, then libertarians will always be slaves of the bully.

Andras August 21, 2009 at 8:48 am

“Because “Sir” is willing to risk his life shooting you if that is what it takes to rob you and “Sir” is not encountering any resistance whatsoever.”

Not correct. “Sir” never risk his life, the truth is that modern governments developed a way to eliminate the risk factor, to redistribute the risk to you, to redistribute the risk to private citizens who are just working for the government. If a taxman get shot, the government won’t care (although they will send another citizen to arrest you and to put you in jail), they will simply replace him with another taxman.

You simply can’t resist because you don’t have a clear point. You are manipulated to believe that you are not robbed at all, that the whole high tax environment is your idea. You live in a democracy where you elect your representatives your agents so everything you are forced to do by the “law” is the will of the majority so it is probably your will as well (at least that is what most people think). How can you resist that?

We will continue to lose a part of our property (to predators and parasites) until it will starting to hurt, after that moment we will start to move to a reverse direction, and after we feel OK once again, we will reverse again… the whole human civilization is nothing but a periodic movement toward totalitarian tyranny and away from totalitarian tyranny, many times over.

So the private property order works, just it must deal with countless enemies all the time. So you are wrong, people defend their property but just as in any other action they choose between the cost and the benefits. When the result of the abuse is great pain, real pain… the higher price of taking action will be acceptable because the expected benefit will be greater.

Andras August 21, 2009 at 9:00 am

Ludwig von Mises was able to clearly understand, that there is no such thing as “others who want no part of it” within society. If you are a member of the society (and everybody is because a self sustaining human being doesn’t exist), you must “play by the rules”. The only thing is that Mises also was able to clearly understand that those rules SHOULDN’T be made by the government, that the government is an organization which is here to enforce those rules on people who doesn’t follow those rules voluntarily, but that the rules SHOULD be a product of human action, a mix of countless generally accepted ideas… accepted by the vast majority of society members because they helped them to achieve higher levels of predictability, efficiency and security, they helped them to maintain and to further develop the spontaneous order.

Mises wasn’t an anarchist but he was a million times closer to be an anarchist than to a be a statist.

Stephan Kinsella August 21, 2009 at 9:10 am

2nd Am: “libertarians have proven that a private property order DOES NOT WORK !

If “Sir” can rob you, it’s because you either don’t have the lethal force necessary to prevent “Sir” from robbing you or you don’t have the will to use said lethal force to stop “Sir” from plundering you.”

This is a good example of the might-makes-right mentality that plagues those who confuse fact and norm.

As for Mises’s anarchism, see Was Mises an Anarchist?

RWW August 21, 2009 at 9:37 am

Great link, Stephan. I often refer to myself as a “secessionist” rather than by some other label, because it’s very hard to argue logically against the right of secession (at least in the U.S.). After all, the U.S. itself was created by secession.

And then, once the right of states to secede is granted, it’s hard to justify a point at which a group of people is too small to secede.

2nd Amendment August 21, 2009 at 9:41 am

Stephen Kinsella,

What is “right” ? Please define “right”. On the other hand it is very easy to define might.

Might does not make “right” because in nature, in physics in reality there is no “right”.

There is only might.

Okay, “Sir” is wrong to rob you, but how are you going to stop “Sir” from robbing you if you don’t have the might ?

Keep telling “Sir” that he is wrong, he will just laugh at you and rob you even more and prove YOU wrong.

“Sir” will say: See, your private property order does not work because I can take away your property and claim it mine and who are you to stop me ?

How can you claim to “own” something if you can’t defend it ?

In fact, to own is not reality. It’s a fake verb. The only real verb that most closely ressembles ownership is control.

To Control. Therefore you should control only what you have the might to do so. If you claim control over a piece of property, you need the might to keep it for yourself and there is always the risk that some more powerful entity might claim it for itself and with what might will you stop them from robbing you ?

“Sir” might be academically wrong, philosphically wrong to take away what’s yours, but he sure can and he does and he gets away with it and it’s not with a 9th degree regression nor sophisticated style figures or a Picasso painting that you will stop him.

I don’t claim that might is right, I claim that might is might. “Right” is a concept invented by man and I don’t see this in nature nor in physics.

“Right” might just be a flawed human philosphical musing. And just look at all the horrors and wars and miseries that manking fought in the name of “right”.

“Right”, especially religious or nationalistic or justice or psychiatric driven has caused mankind to use might with no restraint.

I bet that if the concept of “right” never existed, that might would not have the powerful over-reaching threat it is today.

Do as you might.

Andras August 21, 2009 at 9:45 am

Stephan:

I agree on most of the things you said, but society is a group of individuals, so Mises never said anything incompatible with the individual self-determination, he actually strongly supported that. But this self-determination should be limited only to those actions which doesn’t harm others and which doesn’t stop others in their own self-determination. Mises was an economist so he examined society from economical viewpoint, and probably the only reason he wasn’t go all the way down to the individual is that he simply understand that (self)isolated individuals can’t survive, can’t sustain themselves.

Should we force an individual to be an active member of society? No! But if he are “one of us”, (and the truth is that every single individual is) then he simply must “play by the rules.”

Society is a “playground” of social cooperation the “playground” for (economic and social) exchange. The dynamics, the efficiency of that cooperation that exchange determines the center of our circle of possibilities (both individual and collective), we as individuals can partly determine our radius of movement, but our center is determined by the environment. All we want is to move this center point to a more preferable area and the only way we can do that is if we improve our radius, with better radius we have better dynamics of exchange with another individuals, and the result of that is not just more preferable point for us (individuals) but we move the center to a more preferable area for everyone. Mises idea is that this isn’t possible by central planning, but he also believe that it also isn’t possible by living as an isolated individual. He see the human society as a group of free individuals. I believe he was clearly right regarding this.

2nd Amendment August 21, 2009 at 9:50 am

Andras,

” If a taxman get shot, the government won’t care (although they will send another citizen to arrest you and to put you in jail),”

Then that other “citizen” should be shot as well.

It should be more risky to work as a taxman or for a taxman than to work against them.

Taking somebody elses property should always be more risky than keeping ones own property and that is up to the property owner to make sure there is a significant level of risk involved at pludering one’s said property.

Jails should be empty and graveyards should be full of resisters and oppressors.

Jails are filled with traitorous cowards. Graveyars are filled with tyrants and brave freedom fighters.

That way, freedom would be plentiful.

But then again, who am I to speak, being that I too am a coward who pays his taxes to avoid jail or simply to keep my job since I cannot not pay taxes, it’s directly withdrawn from my paycheck and if I bother my boss with it he will simply fire me, like everyone of us.

It would be cool if we got to keep our full paycheck then had to write a check to the government. It would be easier to revolt against taxes that way.

But now, your employer is an agent of government and if you pressure your employer to stop retaining taxes on your paycheck, he will give you the pink slip instead.

The only ones who don’t pay taxes in this country are illegal aliens.

Sword of Damocles August 21, 2009 at 9:50 am

Stephan Kinsella: “This is a good example of the might-makes-right mentality that plagues those who confuse fact and norm.”

So you are saying that a person doesn’t have the right to defend himself, family or property from being taken against his/her will? I would argue that 2nd Amendment is making exactly the OPPOSITE argument. Not that “might-makes-right” but that “might” doesn’t have the right to take property from an individual just because he has the backing of the state, regardless of how duped the individual has become.

Just my thoughts,
SOD

Stephan Kinsella August 21, 2009 at 9:51 am

2nd Am, no offense, but your comments are too amateur, groping, and non-serious to merit a reply.

2nd Amendment August 21, 2009 at 9:54 am

Andras,

“until it will starting to hurt,”

Hurt whom, the taxman or the taxed ?

We can hurt the taxmen right now and then the “citizens” on patrol that come right after that ! What are we waiting for ?

Answer: we are all weak chickens !

JDP August 21, 2009 at 9:59 am

Under anarchist conditions, those fearful of losing their life, liberty, and property to unfettered ‘savages’ can form a collective–if they so choose–which will act as their agent in the free market. Naturally, this collective cannot possess any rights not held by its members, but it will provide the peace-of-mind its members failed to attain through self-determinism.

It is unreasonable to assume that anarchy means “every man for himself.” There have always been cooperative efforts and mutually-beneficial exchanges among individuals. This will not change. Anarchy entails the freedom of association–a scary thought for people who need to brush up on interpersonal skills.

For those who find comfort in being told what to do, the argument against anarchy is a moot point. Hire a personal coach.

Mark August 21, 2009 at 10:07 am

That’s one of the most intellectually sounding rationalizations for avoiding being “for” something I’ve ever read. How convenient.

Stephan Kinsella August 21, 2009 at 10:08 am

Sword: “Stephan Kinsella: “This is a good example of the might-makes-right mentality that plagues those who confuse fact and norm.”

So you are saying that a person doesn’t have the right to defend himself, family or property from being taken against his/her will? I would argue that 2nd Amendment is making exactly the OPPOSITE argument. Not that “might-makes-right” but that “might” doesn’t have the right to take property from an individual just because he has the backing of the state, regardless of how duped the individual has become.”

***

Who knows what 2nd Am is saying in his confused ramblings. He wrote 2nd Am: “libertarians have proven that a private property order DOES NOT WORK !”

Uh, okay.

He wrote: “If “Sir” can rob you, it’s because you either don’t have the lethal force necessary to prevent “Sir” from robbing you or you don’t have the will to use said lethal force to stop “Sir” from plundering you.”

I.e., he’s blaming the victim. He’s assuming that if a rights-violation happens, it’s with the victim’s consent. Nonsense.

2nd Amendment August 21, 2009 at 10:09 am

“2nd Am, no offense, but your comments are too amateur, groping, and non-serious to merit a reply.”

I didn’t know that libertarians should also be snobs.

My point being that might will always be part of human relationships and therefore cannot be ignored. No matter how wrong it is to use might to deprive others from their private property. The outcome is that those who have the might win.

If “Sir” robs your property, could it be because you let him ?

Andras August 21, 2009 at 10:11 am

‘What is “right” ?’

“Right” is a word with many meanings, so the first thing we should do is to clarify what we understand under the word “right”. If we understand it as a concept which enable us to do certain things with certain resources without disturbing the social peace, then we know that those “rights” are a product of human action acceptable by the vast majority of society. One have no right to kill even if he has an indisputable might, he may kill but the vast majority will see that as an act against social peace, against social cooperation. Will that majority use its “just and rightful” might to stop the predator the one who use power to hurt people? That will depends on the cost & benefit formula I mentioned before. Mises also told us, that no “might” can survive without the support of the majority, not for long time anyway. Now if we believe that “rights” are something we get from the government… we are in deep trouble.

Just to spice up a little this conversation :) , there is also positive and negative rights. Also there is no such thing as “Natural rights”, rights are a product of human action not human design so they is not artificial, but they also does not exist outside the human reason so they are not natural. If “rights” are a product of deliberate human design (legislation for example) then they aren’t rights at all, just temporary privileges.

2nd Amendment August 21, 2009 at 10:14 am

Stephen Kinsella,

Yes, I am blaming the victim because the victim is not even trying to defend himself. The victim is not fighting back and is doing nothing against the agressor.

How can he claim to be a victim. For me a true victim is fallen one during battle.

And by doing nothing to defend themselves, the victims give the agressor and outside observers the illusion of consent.

There is enough victims to subdue the agressor. If the agressor can continue his plundering, it is because the victims do nothing.

The agressor is right to do anything he can to augment his power. The victims are wrong in not defending themselves.

2nd Amendment August 21, 2009 at 10:16 am

For evil to thrive requires only that men of good do nothing.

JDP August 21, 2009 at 10:20 am

2nd Amendment – You can’t stop a tank by throwing yourself in front of it.

2nd Amendment August 21, 2009 at 10:20 am

Andras,

“Mises also told us, that no “might” can survive without the support of the majority, not for long time anyway.”

Thanks for saying in a non amateur, not non-serious and not ramblish way what I was amateurishly and non-seriously trying to say to his majesty Stephen Kinsella.

Hopefully, he won’t snob you.

So in a sense, I am blaming the victims for their support of the very might that oppresses them.

I rest my case.

2nd Amendment August 21, 2009 at 10:24 am

“2nd Amendment – You can’t stop a tank by throwing yourself in front of it.”

You can dig a mudd pit ahead of time, you can jump on top, open the hatch and terminate those inside, then commandeer the tank back to where it came from and damage H.Q.

There has got to be something you can do.

Or you can abandon your “property” in order to save your life. Which all of us do.

Then, you learn that the one driving the tank was your ex-neighbor previously evicted from his property and now he has to drive a tank as a means of subsistence.

That’s how government maintain their might, by getting each of us against each other.

William P August 21, 2009 at 10:59 am

Perhaps the briefest way to sum up this whole discussing from the conservative political argument is: man is imperfect, and we should not look to perfect him on earth. Governments of one sort or another will always exist. Therefore, the argument for limited government is quite inspired, because it’s the only way to defeat all-out statists.

If one wishes to cull the (albeit small) influence of political Libertarianism and leave it as a flourishing research program reserved for the halls of think tanks, well, I’d politely ask what practical purpose it serves.

Andras August 21, 2009 at 11:06 am

I believe the root of the whole misunderstanding here is that we see the world as a bunch of isolated individuals not as society. There is no clear line we can draw between the victims and the government here, because we are all partly victims and partly we are the one responsible for the “theft”. We pay taxes and a part of that money goes to allocation and a part to redistribution. The part which goes to allocation buy us some value but most off the time less efficiently than if the government let the private sector to provide those things, but we get some value so we are more or less satisfied because most of us are not familiar with the fact that we could have all that and more for less. The part which goes to redistribution… well many of us also get something here and that part can be even the majority so there won’t be any possibility to stop this because you can’t go against the majority. Most people want something for nothing and many of us clearly ask for this kind of politics, many of us vote for a politician who talk bold and big promises to us and then we except to get what he promised without thinking that actually we (or at least the productive part of society) will pay the bills.

So talking about clear victims is OK when you talk about highway robbery but it has no sense when you talking about taxes.

Anyway high taxes are not a preferable condition to live in, but we have more important issues, like fiat money, central banking etc. The majority is responsible for the overall state of affairs, that is correct, but until we are on a clear way to improve our standard of living we just doesn’t feel as a victim, and lets face it at least until now we had an improvement, much less efficient and much slower than in a case of a true free market world, but still an improvement. Now it seems that we are close to a turning point a point where it will starting to hurt us, when we will be unable to improve and at that point we as society will once again cut back on the government simply because we don’t have a choice. But we are still not at that point, the majority still doesn’t feel the pain, the majority is still at the receiving end…

bob August 21, 2009 at 11:13 am

“Because humans are not omniscient – morally and epistemologically, then markets must be ‘imperfect’? Is that really what you meant to imply? Surely not.”

Yes, I did. I don’t see what’s wrong with that. Even where vice is met with justice and imprudent businesses go out of business, their presence means resources that could have been used elsewhere towards better ends. Perfect markets must be omniscient. One of the reasons I like “Austrian” economics is because it never relies on unrealistic models, such as perfect markets.

“Reality unfolds largely independently and indifferently to human intention and action. The advantage of uncoerced human action in markets is that it generates the least costly and most precise response to inevitable unintended consequences.”

I agree, which is what I believe I was saying…

Rafael August 21, 2009 at 11:19 am

This post has been overcome by disturbing stream-of-consciousness musings by many people, so I’m hesitant to add anything. But I would just like to thank Stephan for provoking a bit of discussion about the dubious coherence of minarchism.

I also would like to suggest that comments such as “I personally despise all crime and criminals, and apologists for them” should be thought over twice before posting. Personal attacks on others who value liberty are perhaps not in great form. For that matter, I would never in a million years dream of telling my close friends, or family, or mentors, that I despise them merely because they are not among the enlightened minority that realizes the true nature of the state.

It is important to remember that the fact that the majority supports the state, and the fact that the state is a terrible moral evil, do not combine to support the conclusion that the majority is terribly morally evil. Most are simply confused.

bob August 21, 2009 at 11:26 am

2nd Am is simply saying, “Right should make might”. That is, if what most people wanted was defense of property rights (and thus individual rights), there would be enough might backing this ideology to repel attempts to conquer it.

Yet, this is not the world we live in. Most people flock towards the bully, not due to philosophical ideology, but the simple fact that they prefer comfort over righteousness. Eventually, this comfort no longer even becomes a preference to righteousness, but psychologically viewed as equivalent to it. This can only be termed might makes right. Or…what is obviously unjust must be just because doing otherwise seems impractical or individually unfavorable.

Thus, our battle is two-fold. To motivate most people to accept property rights, and to develop the might (and techniques, technology, etc) necessary to defend them.

Zorg August 21, 2009 at 11:36 am

Catawissa said:

“Due to our fallen nature we need a final arbiter. The problem is that the State (Church), because it is run by those same fallen individuals, cannot seem to limit itself to its God given role. It always overreaches”

Hoppe (among others, I’m sure) has destroyed the myth of the state as final arbiter in a matter of seconds in his speeches. While the state can at least function (by force) as an arbiter between you and I, the state cannot be an arbiter between you and the state. That completely obliterates the whole idea of a just arbitration.

You cannot take them to another arbiter who is removed and could therefore judge justly. They will not allow it. They claim sovereignty over you while recognizing no higher authority above themselves. This is usurping the place of God, not fulfilling a God-ordained role. God ordains justice, and the state simply cannot be a just judge when it is also at the same time one of the litigants.

“I think that the rule of subsidiarity…pretty nearly fits the mold of libertarianism, or anarcho-libertarianism…This does presuppose the existence of a final arbiter, however.”

Subsidiarity seems to “presuppose” whatever order it happens to be applied to since it’s just a description of the best way to efficiently deal with problems.

Since the “final arbiter” issue is a red herring as far as justifying the state, one can easily apply the Catholic principle of subsidiarity to an anarchic free market system of justice. It would seem to be the natural order of things. People will naturally make arrangements for services which they cannot provide for themselves efficiently. The only difference is that the arrangements are voluntary and subject to competition, unlike the state which is arbitrary and imposed by force.

The Church is a great example of a voluntary society, and could very easily re-assert the power of civil society if there were sufficient understanding and motivation to resist state tyranny.
Church courts could handle all disputes between Catholics, for example. This is just like what Jesus said in that quote from Matthew. Those who refuse the judgment of the Church are then treated as outsiders (pagans and tax collectors), i.e., they lose the benefits of the association.

I am certain that other large groups could very easily also take back the many functions of society
usurped by the state. Welfare services are easy to work out with mutual aid societies or for-profit insurance companies.

The state is nothing special at all. It is a group of people and an idea. The idea is wrong, and so the people which adopt this idea become tyrannical over time as there is no sufficient check against them.

You can only have effective arbitration when the two parties in dispute with each other will respect and obey the decision of the arbiter. If that arbiter lacks respect and exists only by force, then not only can it not do justice between itself and another, it lacks respectability altogether. It legislates and judges, and then judges its own legislation in all cases. What keeps it from being effective and just is not that there are not good principles in there somewhere but that they are all distorted by the fact that the entity is a monopoly.

A free society gives the people the power to pull the plug financially on all usurpers and pretenders and criminals. This can be done instantly and without violence. There is nothing like the market to humble people and make them actually serve the needs and wants of others justly.

2nd Amendment August 21, 2009 at 11:41 am

Bob,

“2nd Am is simply saying, “Right should make might”.

Thank you, yes that’s what I am saying.

Right should make might or else might will make “right”.
Us who know right certainly don’t want to be pushed around by wrong might.
So for right to be, might must meet might or right will meet might and right will loose to might.

Cvalik August 21, 2009 at 11:47 am

Russ: “OK, I will say it outright. I favor some aggression to stop worse aggression.”

That’s what my old psychology professor called “muddy thinking”.

It may well be, that without any state institutions, there would be more crime, but I see it as very unlikely. Why? Well the difference between micharchist and anarchist society is, in a minarchist state, some crimes are not legally punishable. In other words, you are not allowed to defend against some crimes. In anarchy, ALL crime is punishable.

Therefore Russ’s claim that in minarchist state there would be worse agression is to me a muddy thinking. A “thinkology”, if you will. A logically unsound claim.

P.S. – Good work, Stephan. Don’t mind those minarchists. You know what’s the difference between a minarchist and an anarchist? An anarchist has read more books.

They’ll all come around, if they have the perseversance. I’ve been there too. Hell, I started as a die hard leftist! And during my intellectual journey I went through all the necessary stages, including minarchism. It took me almost a year and the whole Rothbard bibliography to get here but I did it :) )

William P August 21, 2009 at 11:50 am

*Has visions of some leftist publication quoting the title of this piece as an example of so-called “right wing” lunacy.* All philosophical reasoning aside, this is certainly not a salable political argument.

Michael A. Clem August 21, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Gee, it’s like opening up a can of worms!
As I said in another thread, I believe that principle and practice are complementary. If a free market is so much better at producing other goods and services, there’s no reason to think it won’t be better at providing a legal system for rights protection, despite all those who try to claim that this service is somehow different, or that a free market requires the system to be in place for it to operate. Look at all the interventionism that exists now–we clearly do not have a free market–and yet the market still works to some degree. Industry still does the job of supplying the demands of consumers as best as it can, given the circumstances.
When you say anarchists aren’t for any particular system, that’s true enough, but that doesn’t mean that an unhampered market wouldn’t create a particular system–it just means we’re not entirely sure what that system would look like. But we’re not entirely blind to the possibilities, either. Certainly, different ideas and examples are available to consider, even if they’re not exactly what would happen.
Finally, no, I’m not saying an anarchist society would be some kind of perfect utopia, that no problems would exist, or that no aggression would occur; I’m just saying that I believe it would be better, that our problems and aggression would be minimized. Failure is built into capitalism, as businesses that don’t successfully compete fail and go bankrupt so that their resources can be more efficiently utilized by more successful businesses. But what that failure means is that the problems are minimized and localized. No individual business going under can cause the kind of widespread havoc to society that the failure of government policies can cause. If our current economic crisis isn’t an example of that, I don’t know what is.
So, yes, I believe an anarchistic society is not only principled, but practical. Futhermore the features of anarchism are not really all that unknown, and are present in our current society to some degree. You just have to know where to look, and what to look for.

2nd Amendment August 21, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Why should libertarians strive to create a better “society” where we would all live in peace, harmony and prosperity.

Why don’t each libertarian simply embetter his own life conditions by doing what’s best for himself and resist the collective ?

Why wait to be part of a big movement before doing what’s right ?

William P August 21, 2009 at 12:28 pm

2nd, I believe it’s because we’re (I say this as not a “pure” libertarian) being tormented.

Michael A. Clem August 21, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Why don’t each libertarian simply embetter his own life conditions by doing what’s best for himself..
Who says libertarians don’t? A big movement mostly consists of a whole lot of little movements. The big movement is mainly handy for people who don’t know what direction or actions they should take. And I would argue that, in line with the complementariness of practice and principle, doing what’s right for oneself IS an effort to create a better society, because taking advantage of other people for personal gain only works in the short run, and not in the larger scheme of things, either for society or for yourself. This may be a difficult lesson for some to learn, but I believe it to be true.

Sina August 21, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Michael Clem –
So where do you look and what do you look for?

Stephen Kinsella –
Thanks for this and your other posts. I was wondering if you could clarify a few points, please. I won’t ask wether you personally vote, but would it be consistent with anarchism? Also, would you object to someone shooting an officer sent to arrest you for not paying taxes? Finally, how is the freedom you advocate significantly different from the situation that would arise if the following happened:
1 – Everyone embraced anarchism
2 – The same proportion who currently favour big government freely organised themselves into a new country happily called the USSA
3 – Others, opposed to this, freely chose, as they may do now, to leave this arrangement and live in any number of ways currently available (eg. some remote farm somewhere, Amish-like community, etc.) that do not involve being coersed by government.

In fact, it seems to me that the current system should be hailed by anarchists as a great opportunity. Using a little ingenuity, it is possible to get more from the governmnet than it can take from you. At least for people like academics, because of the foot-loose nature of your work, this should be very easy. Or do you view ‘stealing’ from a thief to be equally wrong?

Thanks

Robbie Clark August 21, 2009 at 12:53 pm

I thought this post was quite brilliant. Thanks for writing it.

2A August 21, 2009 at 12:56 pm

“The same proportion who currently favour big government freely organised themselves into a new country happily called the USSA”

And to say that Russia is becoming capitalist by the minute and that the Pravda is more conservative than the NYT.

The world upside-down and inside-out.

Michael A. Clem August 21, 2009 at 1:03 pm

So where do you look and what do you look for?
Any and every situation where problems are resolved by voluntary agreement as opposed to authoritarian decree. This could be anything from how you resolve a problem with your neighbor to how a local department store handled your complaint. There are historical examples such as Merchant Law and common law to look at, too, both of which still have elements working in our current society. Arbitration and mediation services exist now, though they are largely utilized by businesses, not individuals. Private security and investigation have been around for some time, and private security forces outnumber public law enforcement individuals. More generic, but still interesting examples involve the development of language and money (although governments have largely taken over the production of money, it is a purely private invention). Even games that children play only last as long as all the children agree to the rules-if they disagree and can’t resolve their differences, the game is over.

Andras August 21, 2009 at 1:30 pm

“P.S. – Good work, Stephan. Don’t mind those minarchists. You know what’s the difference between a minarchist and an anarchist? An anarchist has read more books.

They’ll all come around, if they have the perseversance. I’ve been there too. Hell, I started as a die hard leftist! And during my intellectual journey I went through all the necessary stages, including minarchism. It took me almost a year and the whole Rothbard bibliography to get here but I did it :) )”

Well… I don’t know I wasn’t a leftist but I must admit that I had some leftist ideas a until a few years ago, but even after reading most of M. Rothbard and even such hard core anarchist like L. Spooner at the beginning I was almost able to became an anarchist, but after reading L. von Mises and especially F. A. Hayek and J. M. Buchanan and really thinking a lot about each idea I ever learned from those and many other libertarian authors (including Hoppe) and also objectivist authors like A. Rand and G. Reisman and even conservative classical liberals like E. von Kuehnelt-Leddihn I was able to move forward and understand anarchist and minarchist ideas and reason. While I am closer to be a minarchist than an anarchist, I believe that both theories are more or less correct but incomplete. I don’t say anarchist or minarchist are wrong or right… nor I can clearly put myself to any of the two, but I can assure you that after reading a lot I find myself somewhere in the middle of the free classical liberal school and I have a few friends – most of them was left oriented but I managed to bring them into libertarian circles :) – they are also tend to become minarchist if they read those kind of books at the beginning or anarchist if they read anarchist books at the beginning.

Also most people are leftist just because they read leftist books and learn leftist ideas at government controlled schools…

Michael A. Clem August 21, 2009 at 1:43 pm

When I became a libertarian, I had started with Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman. It’s hard to say exactly who I read that led to my becoming anarchist, but it didn’t happen overnight–it took about 7 or 8 years of thought and reading.

2A August 21, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Andras,

In other words, most people are leftist because they don’t know any better ? Most people are leftist because they don’t understand our libertarian position ?

How does this qualify as good quality debate ?

Surely there must be a better way to argue for our libertarian position than to explain away our opponent’s positions as not understanding our position.

If explaining away opposition of health care reform as not understand health care reform is bad argumentation, how can it be good when it’s about libertarianism.

Let’s give credit to our opponents, let’s assume they understand our position and they have some genuine and tought through basis in favor of leftism.

Let’s simply explain why we are in favor of libertarianism and let’s argue that our position exposes the iniation of force necessary for leftism but absent in libertarianism.

Therefore, let’s confront and confuse leftism at it’s own game. They claim to be humanitarian and compassionate, yet they initiate force and use faceless bureacratic system to manage their “compassion”.

This should be enough to leave them in some doubt and show our position.

Let’s just not take the easy route of explaining away their opposition as not understanding or ignorant.

Some leftists are actually very intelligent, knowledgeable and I have a hard time arguing against them. In those cases, I retreat to my non-agression, voluntary, self-reliance, responsibility approach. Usually they can’t honestly and seriously attack this without displaying some intellectual dishonesty.

It all comes down to initiation of force and individual choices.

Why should individual choices involving only those individuals participating in that activity be chosen and decided by society as a whole.

Take narcotics for example. When one individual decides to use drugs and put only his well being at risk, why is it that society as a whole must vote and decide if such drugs usage should be allowed.

Only activities involving everybody as a whole and nobody in particular should be voted and decided as whole.

Such as, should roads be public or private ? Since everybody needs transportation, that is up for debate between a public, private or mixed system.
Even though I favor private system.

But recreational drug usage is really up to the individual and I don’t see why the whole society should get involved in this decision making.

You look more serious that way. But if you go along the route of accusing your opponents to be ignorants because they only expose themselves to leftism, then they can return that same argument against you and accuse you of being ignorant because you only expose yourself to libertarianism.

Andras August 21, 2009 at 3:28 pm

“In other words, most people are leftist because they don’t know any better ? Most people are leftist because they don’t understand our libertarian position ?”

I didn’t said that. I said most people are leftist because they learned leftist ideas. I didn’t say they don’t understand libertarian ideas nor I said that all the leftist are ignorant about libertarian ideas.

Anyway it is hardly anything to debate with the left, they are collectivist hence totalitarian, they love you if you are agree with them and you are a “non-human” to them if you don’t agree with them. Leftist ideas are nothing short of a religion based on dogma and naive incomplete logic, even the smallest amount of critical rationalism is completely absent from the left, and naive rationalism is supreme. I don’t hate them, I just know that there is nothing of value out of leftist ideas, and whenever I can I try to convince a leftist to take a look at libertarian ideas, but the truth is that only a very small percentage of them are willing to spend 5 minutes to see what I am talking about.

One of my grandfather was a leftist (actually a communist with real power as I am from an ex communist country), the other was a silent conservative with many classical liberal ideas (but was more a conservative than a libertarian). I said silent because in those times if they just think you are a non-communist you would end up in a jail. So as a kid I was able to hear the left and the right, in school I learned a bunch of left ideas (actually pure communist/socialist ideas), but I didn’t like all that because I was always a person who doesn’t need a leader, and collectivism is all about leaders. Then I read Marx (Das Kapital) and I was able to find some of the flaws and incorrect ideas Mises pointed out in his critic of Marxism (I didn’t know about Mises and his work at the time), so I am very much familiar with leftist ideas. I also familiar with the ideas of fabianism, sindicalism and the ideas of modern european social democracy (also a bunch leftist ideas known as the “third way”, try to search for authors like Giddens if you are interested). So I am familiar with leftist ideas to the core and I still think that all of those ideas are “bullshit”. I never ever know a (leftist) man who are familiar with libertarian ideas and who are still a leftist.

So in general (informed) leftist are not concerned with a debate, they believe in they incorrect religion and they don’t want even to look at any other direction. Many people who are “independent” or has no interest in politics also hold many leftist ideas but they are just manipulated or they don’t care enough to “check the facts”, I don’t talk about them, I talk about real leftists. Libertarian ideas are most of the time correct, but also most of the time incomplete. So the debate should be how to further develop those more or less correct ideas, how to reach a point closer to completeness. Debating with the left is a gigantic waste of time.

Robert Bumbalough August 21, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Mr Kinsella’s case against Mr Hollick fails, for Mr Kinsella did not demonstrate the truthfulness of anything. Mr Kinsella arbitrarily assumes aggression somehow wrong and that humans somehow have rights and then proceeds onward as if this somehow formed an ethical codex. This constitutes a frozen abstraction fallacy that renders Mr Kinsella’s case invalid.

Andras August 21, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Robert Bumbalough:

Actually Mr. Kinsella’s case against aggression is valid. There is two (well almost three) ways to survive (to get income):

1. Productive action
2. Predatory action (and parasitic action = almost the third)

Aggression is clearly predatory. And predatory actions limits social cooperation, degrade efficiency and the dynamics of economic exchange and waste (destroy) resources (life, time and capital). So it simply can’t be good. There is a special case when the act of aggression happens between two isolated social groups (two isolated civilization), but that would be possible only in a case of alien invasion from outer space :) because all social groups are interdependent on Earth, directly or indirectly. So the outcome of an aggression is clearly negative for the society.

About rights… I already told what right are, so no humans has no rights per se (or natural rights) and they have no artificial rights (those would be temporary privileges not rights) but YES we have rights as a concept of what can we do within society while don’t disturbing the social peace. Rights are a product of human action not human design and they exist only within human reason, but rights represent one of the pillars of society of civilization.

Mr. Kinsella’s case are incomplete but correct.

Robert Bumbalough August 21, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Michael A. Clem> “doing what’s right for oneself IS an effort to create a better society, because taking advantage of other people for personal gain only works in the short run,”

False dichotomy and frozen abstraction fallacy: The two choices offered form the false dichotomy. There exists an alternative. Enlightened self-interest entails doing what is best for oneself without harming others by virtue of fair value exchanges (trading) consequent to rational reasoned deliberation. Fair trades with others allows for both doing good for one’s own self while assisting others by providing them what they value or desire without taking advantage of them. Since reality actually does exist, and all that exists has specific identity, and human beings are consciously aware of existence and can distinguish instantiated attributes via automatic integration of sensory perception, then reason is the only means of acquiring knowledge. Therefore human beings, by reasoning from perceptual inspection, know they are stand alone beings constantly faced with the choice to either live or die. That humans are conscious of existence and that to die is to no longer exist, then the standard of value is the life of the individual human being. This is the basis of self-ownership. Thus the good is to attend to one’s own self-interest, for others have no ownership claim or valid expectation upon or from one’s own self. That others have no ownership claim refutes the notion of society or a better society, for the notion of society pivots upon the false doctrine of mutual ownership or responsibility. In reality, there are only associations, some voluntary and beneficial, others involuntary and detrimental. Substituting “better society” for objective morality from material existence when in fact there is no set of circumstances, “society”, constitutes a frozen abstraction fallacy.

Stephan Kinsella August 21, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Robert Bumbalough:

Mr Kinsella’s case against Mr Hollick fails, for Mr Kinsella did not demonstrate the truthfulness of anything. Mr Kinsella arbitrarily assumes aggression somehow wrong and that humans somehow have rights and then proceeds onward as if this somehow formed an ethical codex. This constitutes a frozen abstraction fallacy that renders Mr Kinsella’s case invalid.

The article sought merely to describe libertarian principles not to justify them. But in a sense, it is not needful to do anything other than assume rights. It is not necessary to prove it. It is only necessary as a prudential matter to determine if my opponent adopts the grundnorms that imply rights, or not. If he does, then why do I need to prove to him what he also already believes? If he does not, he is just a technical problem like a lion or snake.

Robert Bumbalough August 21, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Andras> “Mr. Kinsella’s case are incomplete but correct.”

No. Your wrong. A case must be complete to be correct. If an argument lacks an essential element to be either valid or sound, it is then incorrect and cannot fail to not have convincing power. Mr Kinsella left much out and simply assumed his presuppositions correct. Perhaps he did so because he thought he was preaching to the choir.

Andras August 21, 2009 at 4:16 pm

“If he does not, he is just a technical problem like a lion or snake.”

…great and short answer, I agree 100%

Andras August 21, 2009 at 4:24 pm

“No. Your wrong. A case must be complete to be correct. If an argument lacks an essential element to be either valid or sound, it is then incorrect and cannot fail to not have convincing power. Mr Kinsella left much out and simply assumed his presuppositions correct. Perhaps he did so because he thought he was preaching to the choir.”

That is a naive rationalist (constructivist) point of view). In reality, nothing is complete, because we are not omniscience, not omnipresent and not omnipotent, we can just try to achieve a higher and higher level of completeness, but unless we are talking about a very simple elementary problem we are only able to give a satisfactory answer which may or may not survive the test of time. That is especially true in a case of social “sciences” where almost nothing can be proved by mathematical tools. Read a little Karl Popper… :)

Robert Bumbalough August 21, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Andras> “There is two (well almost three) ways to survive (to get income):
1. Productive action
2. Predatory action (and parasitic action = almost the third)”

Why is survival a value? Since Libertarianism has no metaphysics, it cannot fail to not have an epistemology or morality. Lacking a way to know or understand what to do, Libertarianism is simply a midrash of various ill formed notions borrowed from other philosophic systems.

“Aggression is clearly predatory. And predatory actions limits social cooperation, degrade efficiency and the dynamics of economic exchange and waste (destroy) resources (life, time and capital). So it simply can’t be good.”

Neither you nor Mr Kinsella have established what is the good. Your assertions are arbitrary. Any arbitrary assertion can be effectively countered by a simple counter assertion. (Think Billy and Suzie on the school play ground. “Did.- Did not.”)

Your statement that: “…predatory actions limits social cooperation, degrade efficiency and the dynamics of economic exchange and waste (destroy) resources (life, time and capital)” is a list of circumstances you claim that render aggression “can’t be good.” The list contains items that are of a practical nature. For these to be practical, a presupposed unstated enthymeme that human beings hold mutual ownership over each other must be assumed. But for that enthymeme to be valid, the value of cooperation, efficiency, and exchange must be established. That task requires a valid metaphysics, epistemology, and morality. Libertarianism lacks all three. This is not a trifling quibble, for you and Mr Kinsella purport to speak authoritatively. There are other arguments that can be brought to bear on Mr Kinsella’s “case”; however, my brief candle burns low, and I must go.

scineram August 21, 2009 at 4:55 pm

If statism is only a technical problem why argue with Hollick?

Stephan Kinsella August 21, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Scineram: I am not arguing with Hollick. I’m making a point for any libertarins seeking better understanding of our political philosophy. You’re welcome.

Andras August 21, 2009 at 5:02 pm

“If statism is only a technical problem why argue with Hollick?”

Nobody said that! A person who DOES NOT accept the concept of rights are a technical problem as an antisocial (human) being. Statism accepts the concept of rights just that… they believe that rights are something the State grants to the people (usually by a Constitution, Bill of Rights, International Declarations etc.)

sina August 21, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Mr Kinsella –

Mr Bumbalough’s point as to what is ‘good’ aside, you make a convincing case.

So I wanted to know how far you feel government needs to be condemned. It seems to me that ‘stealing’ from a thief has several advantages: transfer from counter-productive to productive agent, reducing the incentive for theft, etc.

I wanted to read your thoughts on this. For the entrepreneurial amongst us, government makes this very easy, so it’s an important question both in principle and practice.

Thanks

2nd Amendment August 21, 2009 at 5:22 pm

I don’t think that the state can be said to “grant” rights, rather the sate uses it’s might to take rights for itself.

The state doesn’t grant you the right to keep and bare arms, nor does the constitution.

Rather the state takes the right to refuse you to keep and bare arms and to stop you from keeping and bearing arms.

The state takes the right to oppose anyone it pleases from exerting what one thinks is his right.

Because the state has the might, it claims to have the right to oppose your free exercise of your rights. Therefore it claims those rights for itself. It cannot grant you any rights because it always have the might to to deny you those rights further down the way.

What is granted cannot be taken away afterwards. If it’s not granted you did not have it in the first place.

Nobody grants rights. Rights are something that is taken and affirmed and unfortunately as I pointed out, the only way to take a right is through might.

And since the state has the monoply of might, it then believes it has the monopoly on right.

Andras August 21, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Robert Bumbalough:

I need a little more time to give you an answer, and time is what I don’t have right now, but I will answer soon…

Anyway just one additional question, I sense from your arguments that you are a metaphysical naturalist (am I right?), so I really have some hard time to understand why do you attack my points? .

…because they are somewhat compatible with most of the beliefs of metaphysical naturalists (I don’t say 100% compatible, but they are not represents the opposite sides of the spectrum). I know libertarianism are not compatible all the time, but I never said I am a libertarian :) I am closer to libertarianism than to any other political philosophy, but I simply don’t want to limit my views by the (self imposed) limitations of any political philosophy, not even metaphysical naturalism. :)

Nick August 21, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Unfortunately, anarchists are required to provide hypotheticals about what WOULD happen under no government in order to convince people to give up thousands of years of tradition. Therefore, you are very much proposing a new “system”. Personally, I have not been convinced by anarchist proposals to replace a limited government’s public services on the whole, although I am for somewhat radical privatization in areas of fire and police services. I have found the Hoppe-style anarchist community -relative to a limited, small government- to be more of a trade off between different facets of liberty than a progression towards it.

Ghost August 21, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Mr. Bumbalough does bring up an interesting point. I’m personally an anarcho-capitalist, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to argue against a socialist who says, “I subjectively prefer that everyone have equal material wealth, and I believe the use of force is justified in achieving this outcome.” An anarcho-capitalist may rationally argue that socialism will lead to mass impoverishment, but if the socialist does not object to this consequence, there is no way to prove that anarcho-capitalism is “better” than socialism.

Stephan Kinsella August 21, 2009 at 6:45 pm

Nick:

“Unfortunately, anarchists are required to provide hypotheticals about what WOULD happen under no government in order to convince people to give up thousands of years of tradition.”

we are not “required” to; this is just a practical issue of how to persuade people.

Ghost:

“Mr. Bumbalough does bring up an interesting point. I’m personally an anarcho-capitalist, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to argue against a socialist who says, “I subjectively prefer that everyone have equal material wealth, and I believe the use of force is justified in achieving this outcome.” An anarcho-capitalist may rationally argue that socialism will lead to mass impoverishment, but if the socialist does not object to this consequence, there is no way to prove that anarcho-capitalism is “better” than socialism.”

Right. You can only appeal in such a discourse to commonly shared values. If he is discoursing with you he is presupposing a host of basic values you can appeal to, that he already agrees with, and show him that his socialist views are inconsistent with the civilized and pro-peace norms of argmentation itself; but, in the end, if he doesn’t share our libertarian values, so what? That just means he is an outlaw, animal-like–just like a regular criminal. I mean you can’t expect our values to appeal to those who have rejected them. The reality of the world is that there are uncivilized people in it. The question is: what side do you choose to be on? I choose the side of good. And what do we do with those who don’t? Well, that’s just a technical problem.

Sina August 21, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Ghost,

I’ve found a similar situation in arguments. I think Hoppe provides the best explaination of the inconsistency of this position with the very fact that they would bother to argue it.

But in practice that’s not usually needed. Most people who argue for an ‘equally poor’ situation for all do so for lack of further lines of argument. Usually, if an anarcho-capitalist can successfully show how everyone would be better off under their system then the socialists give in, albeit maybe not in the course of the actual argument. The difficulty is showing that anarchy would improve the situation, which we are not afforded the opportunity to demonstarte in practice – apart from in Somalia :)

Vanmind August 21, 2009 at 6:55 pm

In what became history’s very first government, a shaman for a prehistoric tribe instituted a mandate whereby all newborns were to be held underwater for the entire the first week of their lives. As the years went by and the youngest pre-government children began to have children of their own, doubt surfaced about the logic behind the seemingly ineffective underwater ritual.

“Well,” said the now-ancient shaman, “you have not proved that keeping newborns out of the water would ever work, so hand over your baby.”

As breathing air is mankind’s natural state, so too is anarchy society’s natural state. All else has been ritualized pretense designed for shamanistic confiscation and control.

“But if we don’t violate rights by instituting a state, there might be rights violations under anarchy.” Yes, yes, and Bush had to destroy capitalism in order to save it, and Cuba is allowing some market freedom in order to save socialism. Yawn to such mental midgetness.

Don’t like anarchy? You don’t get a say in the matter.

sina August 21, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Mr Kinsella,

I appologise for asking this thrice, but I’m sure you wouldn’t deliberately ignore the question.

Do you think its ok to ‘steal’ from the state?

How about the others posting here, what do you guys think about this? If the objection is that anarchy is ‘unlikely’, would this not make it more likely?

Bill in StL August 21, 2009 at 7:24 pm

Mr. Bumbalough, perhaps a return to fundamentals will highlight your objection:

I own myself;

I own the unowned things that I improve, and the things given to me by rightful owners;

To take from a rightful owner without his consent is robbery;

[Members of] Governments do not subsist wholly on volutary contributions and voluntary fees for service, but also (primarily) on involuntary taxation, and are therefore robbers.

To which part do you object?

Gil August 21, 2009 at 8:26 pm

I agree with what 2A has been posting except for the part about the right to ‘keep and bare arms’. (No! Wear a long-sleeved shirt you hippie!) The second amendments deals with the right to ‘keep and arm Bears’.

On the other hand, the feeling of guilt towards themselves that victims have after a crime is a perfectly valid feeling. In a sense victims do have a duty to feel bad about themselves after a crime. They let themselves become complacent and open to attack and then act surprised when someone took advantage of the opportunity. It would akin to a soldier losing a leg by stepping on a mine because he got complacent and forgot he was in a war and was too busy looking at the scenery. So yes, defensive might makes right.

Russ August 21, 2009 at 11:35 pm

Cvalik wrote:

“Russ: “OK, I will say it outright. I favor some aggression to stop worse aggression.”

That’s what my old psychology professor called “muddy thinking”.”

It’s what I call “pragmatic thinking” or “realistic thinking”. But you can call it “muddy thinking” if you like; after all, reality is sometimes muddy, and doesn’t fit into neat little philosophies and systems. Minarchism may not be consistent, which is I’m sure what attracts Stephan to anarchism. But “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

“It may well be, that without any state institutions, there would be more crime, but I see it as very unlikely. Why? Well the difference between micharchist and anarchist society is, in a minarchist state, some crimes are not legally punishable. In other words, you are not allowed to defend against some crimes. In anarchy, ALL crime is punishable.”

The problem is that, with a state, there is an arbiter of last resort. Without a state, the arbiters can decide to punish each other, starting nasty power feuds like Mafia gangs fighting for turf.

“Therefore Russ’s claim that in minarchist state there would be worse agression is to me a muddy thinking. A “thinkology”, if you will. A logically unsound claim.”

I don’t think that logic can solve this problem; experience is needed for that (oh my goodness, that sounded downright conservative of me; I’ll have to watch that from now on. ;-) ) And since there has never been an anarcho-capitalist experience on Earth, I’ll have to go with similar episodes in history where States collapse, and the power vacuum is filled by petty warlords fighting each other, much to the loss of the people.

“You know what’s the difference between a minarchist and an anarchist? An anarchist has read more books.”

Heh. I started out Republican, because my parents were. Then I started reading stuff like Rand, Milton Friedman, Browne, Boaz, etc. I moved on to Hayek (Road To Serfdom, Fatal Conceit, Constitution of Liberty, even two thirds of Law, Legislation, & Liberty), and Mises’ polemical works (Liberalism, Planning For Freedom, Bureaucracy, Anti-Capitalist Mentality), Narveson (Libertarian Idea), etc. By that time I was solidly minarchist, although I didn’t know that word yet, and hadn’t even heard of ancap yet. I just called myself a libertarian.

Then I heard that Friedman’s son and this guy called Rothbard had crazy versions of libertarianism that went all the way to anarchism. It sounded silly to me, but I decided to check it out anyway. So I went through Rothbard (Ethics of Liberty and For A New Freedom), Friedman (Machinery of Friedman), the Tannahills (Market for Liberty), Benson (The Enterprise of Law), Hoppe (Democracy: The God That Failed), Jasay (Against Politics and Justice & Its Surroundings), even Murphy (Chaos Theory). I’ve also read economic works by Mises, Rothbard, Callahan, Sowell, etc., and I understand “Econ 101″ although I can’t say that I am an economic savant by any means.

So I’ve read the major apologies for ancap, whether natural law-based, utilitarian, or Objectivist. In fact, for a while I considered myself an anarcho-capitalist myself, but I now consider myself through that stage, and back to a position somewhere between libertarianism and conservativism, I suppose.

So I’m not a minarchist because I haven’t gone far enough. I’m minarchist because I’ve already been to Ancapistan, got the T-shirt, and am partway back again. :-P

Cvalik August 22, 2009 at 2:44 am

Russ: “The problem is that, with a state, there is an arbiter of last resort. Without a state, the arbiters can decide to punish each other, starting nasty power feuds like Mafia gangs fighting for turf.”

That’s of course debatable, nobody can be sure how a real minarchist state would work, let alone an anarchist society. But I’m quite sure anarchism would not be produce general chaos and mayhem as is often claimed. I strongly believe human kind would not get past the Cro-magnon mark if it has some kind of built-in propensity to self-destruct if not kept under an authoritative rule.

I admit, it’s more of a educated guess, I’m not a historian or sociologist, but think about it – our everyday lives, our core values are for the most part determined not by any kind of instructions or a top-down coersion, but by an innate, inherent appreciation for a golden rule (appearing in many forms but best formulated in the Bible: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”). The reason a vast majority of people don’t kill or steal is not because the government legal code (or the Ten Commandments) forbid murder or theft, but because such behavior is a deviation from the way men and women normally acts.

So by means of a simple logical deduction I have formed my present belief that a society doesn’t need any government imposed legal code – common law would emerge (as it actually did in the past). And from that it’s reasonable to deduce that a system to enforce this common law would emerge as well.

In short, my point is – society is inherently stable and a coercive rule (including an imposed arbiter of last resort) is therefore not a stabilizing but rather a DEstabilizing factor.

“So I’m not a minarchist because I haven’t gone far enough. I’m minarchist because I’ve already been to Ancapistan, got the T-shirt, and am partway back again.”

Ok, fair enough :) )

Andras August 22, 2009 at 4:52 am

“And although we can endeavour to find out what function a particular rule performs within a given system of rules, and to judge how well it has performed that function, and may as a result try to improve it, we can do so always only against the background of the whole system of other rules which together determine the order of action in that society. But we can never rationally reconstruct in the same manner the whole system of rules, because we lack the knowledge of all the experiences that entered into its formation. The whole system of rules can therefore never be reduced to a purposive construction for known purposes, but must remain to us the inherited system of values guiding that society.” – F.A.Hayek

I think this is the only reason why can’t we have an anarchist society in our already highly developed world. We missed the “launch window”, our society is beyond the point we can actually start a new society, and founding an anarchist society is an oxymoron anyway, you can’t found a society not even a totalitarian one let alone an anarchist society. The very failing point of the US minarchist idea is the reason why we believe that there was the Founding Fathers who founded the US and they drafted a Constitution which is (together with the Declaration of Independence) the foundation of the law, the “law of the land”… that is simply incorrect, the Common Law preceded the Constitution it was actually those “set of rules” Hayek talked about, which are the product of human action. The Founding Fathers founded the new US government that is all, America was already there, the society was already there, they just founded a new government based (mostly) on the principles of the available common law (the set of rules), they found a government which was acceptable for the vast majority of American residents (simply because it was based on the common law)… the new government’s actions was pointed toward the preservation of social piece within the American society. The existed American society determined the form of the new US government, NOT the other way around.

Now imagine how can we found an anarchist society, when it is impossible to found a minarchist one.

We already have our society, and all we can do is to try to make it as much free as possible, and what is possible is very much dependable on the set of current rules, disperse knowledge and experiences among the current members of our society. One thing is true, everything is in a state of constant change, so we can try to influence those changes toward the direction we would prefer, we can continue to “spread the word” of freedom and free market capitalism (including the ideas of anarchism).

Anyway I still think Mr. Kinsella was right in this article, because he was talked about the irrelevance of impossibility not about the actual possibility of an anarchist society. The principles of anarchism are very important because they are a great guideline to us in order to achieve more freedom, being able to achieve the real state of anarchism or not isn’t really matter at this point.

Stephan Kinsella August 22, 2009 at 5:31 am

sina:

“Do you think its ok to ‘steal’ from the state?”

This is too vaguely worded to know exactly what is meant, but let me take a stab at it. First, it’s not possible to steal from the state b/c it doesn’t legitimately own anything. If you take property from the state you are “liberating” it. (Unless you are a statist who favors the state, in which case you have no right to this or claim on it–only opponents of the state have a right to take welfare, tax refunds etc., or “steal” from it). But if you oppose the state, then you are a victim of the state, and have a right to receive restitution or your property back, and/or liberate it on behalf of other victims.

But is it always wise or prudential? No.

sina August 22, 2009 at 8:42 am

Thanks Stephen,

That’s what I have been thinking, but it just seemed that too few libertarians (of any type) agree that it is a logical conclusion of our arguments.

Earlier in the post when someone asked how to go about promoting liberty you said “that’s exactly the right way to think…educate yourself and others.”

I completely agree that this is the most important point. But should the various liberty fora not also be advocating civil resistance of this form more than they do today (eg. I’ve heared some libertarians argue against accepting student loans, and most seem to think recieving sales tax rebates at the airport using faked reciepts (and many many similar things) are wrong).

On a similar note, why do so many libertarians (I know not you) advocate more efficient taxes – if you came up with a more efficient oven would you suggest it to the nazis??

Btw I’m also doing electrical engineering but thinking of going into law, maybe its a libertarian thing :)

Russ August 22, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Cvalik,

Basically, while I agree that most people tend to be decent people, I also believe there are a lot of people who are not as decent. In fact, I once read that it’s estimated that 1 in 25 people (that’s 4% of the population) are sociopaths. (This doesn’t mean they’re serial killers or anything like that; it just means they don’t care at all about anyone but themselves.) And it only takes a few bad apples to ruin the whole barrel. As the poet said, “Fences make good neighbors”. And I think that government is necessary to provide those fences, figuratively speaking.

Stephan Kinsella August 22, 2009 at 4:59 pm

Russ, “And I think that government is necessary to provide those fences, figuratively speaking.”

Let’s say this is true. How does this justify aggression committed by the state? Are you saying if something is “necessary”, then whatever means are needed to achieve it must be justified? And what does it mean for it to be “necessary,” and how do you know it is?

Russ August 22, 2009 at 7:24 pm

Stephan Kinsella wrote:

“Let’s say this is true. How does this justify aggression committed by the state? Are you saying if something is “necessary”, then whatever means are needed to achieve it must be justified? And what does it mean for it to be “necessary,” and how do you know it is?”

First, you must consider what my political philosophy’s ultimate goal is. What is my ultimate political good? What does my philosophy value the most highly? Maximal possible freedom; that is, the lowest possible level of rights violations or aggression, however you want to phrase it.

Second, you have to consider what I believe will achieve my ultimate goal. I believe that good people following the NAP will *NOT* achieve this goal. I believe that the *minimal* level of rights violations will occur under a polity that admittedly uses a small level of aggression in order to fill the power vacuum that I believe would otherwise result in a greater level of rights violations.

Now I will answer your first question, and thus intentionally fall into your cleverly laid trap. “How does this justify aggression committed by the state?” The outcome — minimal possible rights violations — justifies the aggression committed by the state. Yes, I said it, you wheedled it out of me, the end justifies the means.

Then you asked “Are you saying if something is “necessary”, then whatever means are needed to achieve it must be justified?” No. I meant that government is necessary in the instrumental sense that it is necessary to achieve my goal. I do not mean that my goal is “necessary”, only that it is prefered by me.

But, what, you might ask, about using the end to justify atrocious means? Since my end is minimal possible rights violations, there is no logical way that anyone could say that my end could be used to justify any means whatsoever, because any means that involve raising the level of rights violations above the minimal possible level defeats the purpose, and does not achieve the end.

You also asked “And what does it mean for it to be “necessary,” and how do you know it is?” Well, gee, “necessary” means that without the “necessary” means, you don’t get the desired end. That seems pretty obvious. And how do I know it is necessary? I don’t, at least not with certainty. But I believe that that is the case. After reading books on history, philosophy, and economics, and consulting my own life experiences regarding the nature of people, I applied my *judgment* and came to the conclusion that a small State is necessary for the mimimal amount of rights violations to exist.

Stephan Kinsella August 22, 2009 at 10:07 pm

Russ:

Now I will answer your first question, and thus intentionally fall into your cleverly laid trap. “How does this justify aggression committed by the state?” The outcome — minimal possible rights violations — justifies the aggression committed by the state. Yes, I said it, you wheedled it out of me, the end justifies the means.

Thank you. Finally. Finally. An honest faux-libertarian crypto-statist. So many of your brethren maunder and prevaricate. Your reply is refreshing (and illuminating–no doubt it will help starkly differentiate us here–for the lurkers, they’ll see I’m essentially right that there is always a resort to statism in the types of qualifications you are trying to set forth here–nothing’s for free).

Then you asked “Are you saying if something is “necessary”, then whatever means are needed to achieve it must be justified?” No. I meant that government is necessary in the instrumental sense that it is necessary to achieve my goal.

And how do you know your goal itself — “human freedom”?–is justified? And you do realize the key libertarian insight is that human freedom–human rights–can only be infringed by the use of initiated force. You are aware of this view, are you not?

I do not mean that my goal is “necessary”, only that it is prefered by me.

Fine. Socialists have their goals; criminals have theirs; crypto-statists have theirs; and we libertarians have ours.

I applied my *judgment* and came to the conclusion that a small State is necessary for the mimimal amount of rights violations to exist.

What makes you think a “small State”, one that only violates a “minimal amount of rights,” is possible? What makes you think this State won’t tend to be manned by people a la “the worst rise to the top” and then the inexorable logic of their position will lead them to gradually expand their power?

mpolzkill August 23, 2009 at 1:06 pm

SK,

Excellent, I wonder if Russ will have a Buckleyesque response to that post! (but can one be simultaneously “crypto” AND honest?)

That aside, I find many people are very irritated or amused when they are described as a “statist”. I think their idea is that since the State is so ascendant at this time that it’s like calling them an “oxygenist”. But Russ here has defined “statist”: one who wants to use the State to get what he wants (simple, I know). I will never understand what makes most of the billions of statists with their perhaps millions of different pet systems think that they and their fellow travelers will ever take the reins.

Russ August 23, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Stephan and mpolzkill,

I will respond to you gentlemen on the “What Libertarianism Is” thread, since I think we’re still on topic in that thread, and it hasn’t been pushed as far down the blog “stack” yet.

Michael A. Clem August 24, 2009 at 12:03 pm

here doesn’t seem to be a way to argue against a socialist who says, “I subjectively prefer that everyone have equal material wealth, and I believe the use of force is justified in achieving this outcome.”
Not entirely true. I think it can be shown that socialism won’t achieve ‘equal material wealth’, and thus, the socialist is using the wrong means to achieve his desired goal. However, it’s true that it’s hard to argue for libertarianism with such a person.

George October 20, 2009 at 1:01 pm

“Thank you. Finally. Finally. An honest faux-libertarian crypto-statist. So many of your brethren maunder and prevaricate. Your reply is refreshing (and illuminating–no doubt it will help starkly differentiate us here–for the lurkers, they’ll see I’m essentially right that there is always a resort to statism in the types of qualifications you are trying to set forth here–nothing’s for free).”

You still didn’t address his concern that an anarchistic society would lead to more rights violations than a minarchistic society; your position is that because it doesn’t matter because you value ideology above results, whereas most people value results above ideology.

Having said that, what exactly is wrong with a minarchistic society with open and free borders? If you are free to leave at any time and voluntarily consent to live there, where is the aggression?

Dylan April 24, 2010 at 7:25 pm

One of the few things I agree with in “Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature” is that an ideology cannot truly be good in theory if it is unworkable in practice. If anarcho-capitalism cannot work in reality, it is wrong. If you value individual liberty as the highest good, you should promote a system that both maximizes individual liberty AND can work in practice.

A perfect system would probably be one in which violence is entirely eliminated. But if that is impossible, we should work to create a system in which violence is minimized and directed to promote freedom and justice.

Full disclosure: My views alternate between left-anarchism and liberal republicanism. I got here today looking for quotes by Thomas Paine, a man that every Western ideology seems to claim as one their own.

Stephan Kinsella April 24, 2010 at 11:04 pm

You seem to miss the point. To advocate anarchism is not to advocate a system. It’s simply to maintain that aggression is unjust, and to recognize that the state commits aggression. If you oppose rape, that does not mean you have to show that “non-rape” or “a world without non-rape” is “workable.” You oppose rape and other private crimes because they are crimes. Likewise, if you recognize the state is criminal, you have to oppose it too.

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{ 48 comments… add one }
  • Gene Callahan August 23, 2009, 6:21 pm

    The understanding I take from this is that anarcho-capitalism is not abou any conceivable way of actually organizing a society, but about feeling superior to others but being able to constantly shout at them “Aggressor!”

  • Angel Robinson February 8, 2010, 1:37 pm

    The understanding I take from the previous commenter is that he has no ability to conceptualize a society that is not organized with violence; this says more about his inability to think well than it does our ability to give him all the answers he wants on all the questions he has about all the ways in which he should live his own life. With children I start with one basic rule; don’t hit people. With animals it’s a far more difficult task…

  • Gene Callahan February 9, 2010, 2:27 pm

    Angel, it was Stephan, not me, who said anarchy won’t be achieved. Did you even read his post before commenting?

    Anyway, anarcho-capitalists are certainly NOT for a society “not organized with violence” — they just think it should be organized with different sorts of violence than is the current one.

    ” or not to hire people because of their race”

    Kinsella especially likes this part.

  • Stephan Kinsella February 9, 2010, 4:06 pm

    I don’t know if Gene’s comment about “race” was supposed to be a joke, but if not, accusing me of any sort of racism is completely unfounded.

  • Michael Wiebe February 12, 2010, 12:03 pm

    Stephan is right. Just because people have the right to discriminate on the basis of race doesn’t entail that it is morally permissible for them to exercise that right.

  • Tony Hollick August 7, 2010, 4:39 pm

    A moral right to discriminate entails a moral right to exercise that right.

    This is so obvious that it should not require restating, but in the light of the weakness of Stephan Kinsella’s response we can leave nothing to chance.

    Tony Hollick

    • Stephan Kinsella August 7, 2010, 11:36 pm

      “moral right” is ambiguous and prone to equivocation. Apparently you mean it as a libertarian right. If so, you are correct that this means there is a libertairna right to exercise it. But this is not what Wiebe was talking about: he didn’t say moral right, he said “morally permissible.” I.e., he is saying that some things you have a (libertarian, individual) right to do, would be immoral for you to do.

      This is very obvious. It is libertarianism 101. Not sure how you could miss that one.

  • Tony Hollick August 8, 2010, 10:22 am

    Can you offer a clearly-demarcated example of the distinction you’re trying to make.

    You seem to be saying that it can’t be immoral to exercise a moral right.

    Tony

    • Stephan Kinsella August 8, 2010, 10:24 am

      You are not defining moral right so not sure what you mean. ARe yo utalking about morals, or libertarian (legaly enforceable) rights?

      As an example: it’s immoral to insult your mother (in a typical siutation); but it’s not a rights violation. It’s immoral to exercise your rights in this case. Libertarianism 101.

  • Tony Hollick August 8, 2010, 10:49 am

    So it’s morally right to exercise a moral right in a way that is morally wrong?

    OK.

    Tony

    • Stephan Kinsella August 8, 2010, 9:38 pm

      You refuse to clarify or define what you mean by moral right. So no reply can be made.

  • Gene Callahan August 10, 2010, 12:11 pm

    Stephan, you’re giving Tony too much credit here — the distinction you’re making isn’t just libertarianism 101, it’s pretty much politics 101 — the idea that the illegal and the immoral should be identical has only been a feature of the most fanatically soteriological societies, like Calvin’s Geneva.

    • Stephan Kinsella August 10, 2010, 12:14 pm

      Thanks. But Hollick is at least a fellow libertarian, which I admire and appreciate.

  • Gene Callahan August 10, 2010, 1:01 pm

    Better a fool libertarian than a smart statist, hey?

    • Stephan Kinsella August 10, 2010, 3:29 pm

      Actually, yes. As long as people leave me alone and don’t advcoate statist policies, they’re my little buddies.

  • Michael Barnett August 10, 2010, 3:39 pm

    Smart statist = someone with a vested interest in oppressing people, usually monetary. Gene’s devolution has been hysterical to watch.

  • Gene Callahan August 10, 2010, 4:07 pm

    Yes, Michael, but you should see the fortune I’m piling up through oppression!

    • Michael Barnett August 10, 2010, 4:09 pm

      Gene… my fault for being unclear: I wasn’t referring to you as a smart statist.

      • Gene Callahan August 10, 2010, 4:10 pm

        Well, then the joke’s on you. You should see the plundered loot in my bank account!

        • Michael Barnett August 10, 2010, 4:15 pm

          I’d rather see you come back to your senses — or if you’re just trolling your libertarian friends out of boredom between whichever graduate theses you’re working on now, I’d rather see you stop doing that and start writing sound economic and libertarian articles again.

  • Gene Callahan August 10, 2010, 4:47 pm

    “or if you’re just trolling your libertarian friends out of boredom between whichever graduate theses you’re working on now”

    Michael, Michael, Michael… first of all, if you look above, you’ll see I posted here to DEFEND Stephan’s point, not to “troll.” But he couldn’t just thank me for backing him up, but had to get in a little swipe as well. I have tried to respond humourously, rather than in kind, but perhaps the humour is not working.

    Secondly, it’s really beneath you to keep forwarding DeCoster’s made up story that I have “failed out of multiple PhD programmes.” My graduate record is:

    1) I did a master’s at LSE. I finished in the standard amount of time, and did well enough that:
    2) Out of a worldwide pool of candidates applying to a top 5 in the world PhD programme, I was one of FOUR admitted in my year, where:
    3) I attended for one term, but when I went to return I realized my children were suffering from my absence, and I could not in good conscience do 3 years in residence there, so:
    4) I moved to Cardiff, which does not require residency, and have just handed in my dissertation in 4 years, a quite normal amount of time, and
    5) That’s IT — no other degree attempts, no “failing out” of anywhere, and no extraordinary number of false starts.

    So, unless lying is an important part of libertarianism, I’d ask you to drop that nonsense.

    • Tony Hollick August 10, 2010, 5:10 pm

      “…unless lying is an important part of libertarianism”

      My experience of libertarian honesty hasnot been a happy one.

      Tony

  • Gene Callahan August 10, 2010, 4:50 pm

    ‘I have “failed out of multiple PhD programmes.”’

    And I realize you didn’t say exactly that, but your remark is clearly a reference to the fabrication DeCoster… well, I doubt she invented it — I imagine it was fed to her by someone “higher up” who was unhappy with the development of my thought and felt I needed to be discredited.

    • Michael Barnett August 10, 2010, 4:56 pm

      Again I was not clear enough. That wasn’t a swipe at you. It was a compliment. I thought you were in multiple PHD programs. Not sure where I read that — maybe it was in one of your Facebook replies to me way back when, where you gave me your resume like you just did here.

      I have the utmost respect for your intellect and quoted you plenty from way back when. But even really smart people can get confused. I just wasn’t sure if you were confused or trolling the rest of us out of boredom. Now I see you’re just confused.

      As for DeCoster — she hates me more than she hates you. I wouldn’t borrow from her toolbox of nasty jibes to attack you. I have plenty of my own. 🙂

  • Gene Callahan August 10, 2010, 5:26 pm

    Michael, I’m glad to hear that.

  • Gene Callahan August 10, 2010, 5:46 pm

    And by the way, Michael, I’m open to your suggestion that my current ideas may represent no more than a confusion, especially as my position now implies I was confused before!

    • Michael Barnett August 10, 2010, 5:49 pm

      Gene, do you ever reread your stuff from 2003 and thereabouts? Maybe you should you reread some of that stuff. I always found it insightful.

  • AC September 9, 2010, 5:39 am

    I’ve never been able to agree with Kinsella on IP issues (theft is theft) but this is a great article and talking point.

    Sad to see someonje trying to use the race card to derail the issue, especially someone whom I recall used to be a libertarian?

    • Steven Wayne Lytle September 11, 2010, 5:24 pm

      Theft is theft, but IP doesn’t involve theft. Theft is taking and depriving someone else of the use of their property. ‘Intellectual property’ is not property, i.e., material objects. Ideas can’t be stolen. They can be learned, copied, shared, but the originator is not deprived in any way.

  • Alan September 11, 2010, 7:22 pm

    Yes, I’m very familiar with the arguement, I just don’t find it convincing.

    To me the real sticking point is enforcing copyright laws (aggession) yet as K points out in this actual article, the argument that it’s difficult to enforce the law doesn’t alter the fact that crime is wrong. So if we ignore the enforcement issue we’re left with simply “Is it wrong?”

    Yes it is.

    If copyright theft could be entirely constrained to each individual making extra copies for their own use I could follow the argument. However the realitiy is far too many such thieves then make the stolen property available to others, which usually DOES deprive the lawful owner from at least some legitimate sales.

    Even if the “pirate” paid for the IP it becomes unlawful/stolen the moment the contract is broken by offering it to others.

    In my experience the arguments offered against IP and in favor of thievery tend to switch and adjust to suit the wind, always relying to going a step or two deeper into argument.

    For example if unlawful reproduction is OK, then what’s the beef with the Federal Reserve making duplicate “dollars”? Your own argument is “So what? You still have your original dollars and thus haven’t been deprived of anything, so shut up and suck it down”. Yet on other occasions the DEVALUATION of the dollar is, correctly, stressed as a form of stealthy tax, ie theft.

    Faced with that the ‘pirate’ goes to another level – “Arrgh! But that’s cos you’re forced to use US gov/Fed dollars! If you had a choice then they’re welcome to print as many fake as they want!” Really? So if Kinsella created his own bank, using gold-backed “K-Dollars”, he wouldn’t mind if the Federal Reserve were to “print as many fake K-Dollars as they want!” then?

    “Oh but THEN it would be theft, cos they wouldn’t be gold backed see?” But nor is the Federal Reserve note, so why’re you whining? “Oh but that’s cos they’ve got a monopoly!” It just becomes circular. Why do they have a monopoly? Cos they’d use force to shut you down – but that’s as good an argument as arguing that crime is OK because it’s difficult to enforce against it. The presence of force doesn’t alter what’s right or wrong.

    Ultimately the real issue is what they’re doing is WRONG, because they’re devaluing exiting dollars and savings. Well I posit that devaluing the existing value and investment of someone’s IP is wrong too, regardless of how difficult it may be to enforce without aggression, or the fact the FRNs ARE enforced with aggression.

    Theft, be it directly or via devaluation, ie stealing the value, is theft. Same thing.

    Often the argument is termed that “fraud” is wrong but theft of IP is OK. I don’t see any significant difference; the end result is the same, ie someone’s involuntary loss due to breach of contract. Fraud is only a crime because ultimately it’s a form of theft. So is the theft of IP.

    Then the argument shifts to the notion that “future earnings don’t exist”, so I shouldn’t be miffed when someone steals or deprives me of my future earnings. Do you really want to make that argument, on any topic OTHER than IP?

    No, I’ve heard the arguments in depth but they fail to convince.

    The fact remains that in a modern society, IP is a form of added value, that is to say “homesteaded” private property that is owned by someone. Stealing it is wrong.

    The arguments really boil down to “I don’t like being constrained by IP, and I’m wilfully too short-sighted to see the long-term harm caused to the owner, therefore I’ll fabricate long-winded arguments in favor of theft”

    Like little boys arguing that stealing apples from an orchard “isn’t really theft, because apples grow on trees, so the owner still has apples”. We can make the argument that it involves “trespass” but why bother, because it’s still theft. I don’t care if the apple is still on a tree or on a market stall, stealing it is theft.

    Stealing IP is theft.

    AC

  • Matt C September 14, 2010, 3:21 pm

    “… far too many such thieves then make the stolen property available to others, which usually DOES deprive the lawful owner from at least some legitimate sales…
    “Even if the “pirate” paid for the IP it becomes unlawful/stolen the moment the contract is broken by offering it to others.
    “In my experience the arguments offered against IP and in favor of thievery tend to switch and adjust to suit the wind…

    Will the pro-IP crowd please start an argument with something other than their conclusions? Maybe just for an hour or two, out of politeness?
    You don’t get to start with “thieves”, “stolen property”, “lawful owners”, “pirate”, “unlawful”, and “contract is broken”. You have to end up with those, starting with agreed-upon premises.

    “Too many” ppl do something that “usually” causes “at least some” bad thing ________??!?! This is libertarianism?!?

    If “pirate” A pays for “IP it becomes unlawful… “??!? What is “it” here? Only actions can be unlawful. If “pirate” A leaves the “IP” on a park bench, what actions of Passerby B are unlawful w/r/t the “IP”??! How about if “pirate” A is hit by a bus and the “IP” is carried by the wind to Bystander C??!

    And you think anti-IP arguments are weak?!?!

    “devaluing the existing value and investment of someone’s IP is wrong too.. ”

    Forgive me, but what’s wrong with you? Now people have a right to their posessions’ value?!?! Presumably marketplace competition is a crime then (or just immoral?) Also depreciation.

    Or a closer-at-hand example, see if we can work this out between us. The value of your post — in my opinion — was zero until I wrote this followup. Your post is now an instructive example of how-not-to-argue-for-IP. So you owe me, let’s say, $0.08.

    You no doubt think your post was worth millions until I ridiculed it, reducing its value to zero. Hm. What’s a libertarian to do?

  • Tony Hollick September 14, 2010, 3:33 pm

    Milton Friedman pointed out that property rights are elaborate social constructs rather than self-evident truths. The origin of copyright in Britain came from the payment to the State of a fee for the right to print a pamphlet. This conferred upon the author and publisher had the right to copy where others didn’t.

    Tony

  • Alan September 14, 2010, 5:03 pm

    The value of my post was judged purely by the gratification of making it, diluted by the knowledged that people rarely change their mind. If YOU or anyone else found value, then that’s cool too.

    You’ve artfully ignored most of my points, instead whining at the manner in which they were delivered. Why’s that?

    You did cover one, the idea that somehow no-one is entitled to the value of what they have, giving some examples where value falls naturally.

    Again I refer to apples in an orchard – so it’s not theft, seeing as the apple would eventually rot and become worthless anyway? It’s an interesting argument, if you’re bored with your navel lint, yet not convincing. At the time of the theft there was a value, which was stolen or reduced.

    Suppose I walk around your new car and dent all the bodywork with a hammer. There’s no natural law that says you’re entitled to smooth and straight coachlines, and you haven’t been deprived of the car. Would that be OK? It still starts, drives; I didn’t break any windows so it still keeps the rain out. No harm, right? In truth though, your primary anger at such damage would concern the reduced re-sale value of the car and/or the cost of repairs.

    Yet new cars lose value rapidly anyway, eventually to the point you have to pay someone to drag or tow it away. Besides, I haven’t *deprived* you of your car…

    We could agree perhaps that such vandalism wouldn’t be “theft” per se, yet harm has been done. So sure, you can arguing that the theft of IP isn’t “theft”, it’s “something else” ? Should we come up with a new term? We could call it the “vandalism of IP” if it makes you feel better and still smug?

    Perhaps that’s the perfect term, seeing as often such damage is done without expectation of gain, often simply to prove some infantile point and indeed done often purely for the thrill of destruction. The fact remains it causes harm and expense to the victim, and as such I consider it to break the “no harm to others” principle.

    Fair competition is one thing, theft or vandalism, call it what you like, is another.

    I currently live in Malaysia. I get to “enjoy” most major movies for less than a dollar, often before they’re even released in the states. I also “enjoy” expensive software for the same kind of price. Know what? When available (many vendors block transactions for Malaysia) I buy the real thing, despite the massive cost difference and postal delays.

    No, not because I’m purer than driven snow, simply because so often the pirated stuff is of such poor quality that it’s not worth having and you get zero support.

    Why postal costs? Because there’s virtually no stores locally that sell genuine DVDs. Who can compete with the cost of a DVD plus 10 cents?

    Across India, once the cost of studio equipment dropped, many movie companies started up to supply local language movies, They all went bust, as their work was instantly pirated.

    I’m guessing your next argument will be that really, studies, lovely studies, show that IP does harm. Sorry, but “for the greater good” socialism doesn’t thrill me, nor am I impressed with the long-term outlook.

    You DON’T have the right to break contracts and/or vandalize other people’s (intellectual) property. Even if you find it unattended on a park bench.

    What’s the point of this blog, the Mises Inst. or Lew Rockwell’s site? To spread ideas, right? Because they’re valuable, they mean something, a form of wealth we can spread around freely. That intellectual property CAN be given away doesn’t deprive others of the right to claim ownership of that which they created (or “homesteaded” if you like).

    It’s 2010, IP is a major factor in our lives. A huge part of commerce is based around and upon it. It’s our blessing that (some) property can now be replicated virtually free, transmitted around the world in seconds and takes up almost no space at all. That’s great, heck it’s awesome – but it doesn’t mean we should throw away the rules of civilised behavor, just because we can and (probably) won’t be punished legally.

    Sure, IP started as a form of censorship, and sure, “property” started due to scarcity. So what? Why NOT extend the same proven principles of decent behavior, private property and contracts, to the electronic age?

    Maybe in the shorter term it slows things down but we know that property rights, contracts and so on are long term GOOD things, not evil.

    Bear in mind that most of the people that agree with you on IP would also agree with “from each his ability, to each his need” too. You might want to give that some thought.

    A.

  • Matt C September 15, 2010, 11:23 am

    You’ve artfully ignored most of my points, instead whining at the manner in which they were delivered. Why’s that?

    It’s because your points arise from some premises that I don’t agree with. You begin with “theft is theft” (I agree with this) proceed to “If copyright theft.. ” and end with “Stealing IP is theft”. Incidentally I agree that
    -The difficulty of enforcement isn’t relevant to rightness/wrongness
    -Stealing property is wrong
    -Vandalizing property is wrong
    -Rape is wrong

    I threw that last one in there to address your more recent points e.g.

    vandalism wouldn’t be “theft” per se, yet harm has been done. So sure, you can arguing that the theft of IP isn’t “theft”, it’s “something else” ? Should we come up with a new term? We could call it the “vandalism of IP” if it makes you feel better

    Alas, it does not. The reason is that “theft” and “vandalism” (and “rape”) have definitions on which I think we’d agree. Respectively
    -Depriving another of her property
    -Damaging another’s property
    -Using another’s body without her consent, for pleasure.

    To prove that unauthorized copying of — say — the sonnet I just wrote is “vandalism” or “rape”, one has to establish that the sonnet is my property or my body, respectively. It looks like we agree that unauthorized copying is not theft because it doesn’t deprive me of my sonnet. So the satisfaction of that definition is impossible whether the sonnet is property or not.

    I would almost bet that we agree the sonnet is not my body, so it isn’t rape. Perhaps we’re in need of a term for
    -Devaluing another’s property

    “Dilution” might work.

    The point is that you have to establish that the sonnet is property before calling copiers of it thieves, vandalizers, or diluters. If you can establish this, beginning with shared premises, you win.

    Another problem, of course, is that devaluing another’s property is not always wrong. You do this whenever you offer to sell property that is substitutable for property that someone else is also selling. Oddly, it is also sometimes wrong to increase the value of someone’s property; for example, Jasper Johns cannot paint his next million-dollar artwork on my otherwise worthless garage door.

    Therefore modifying the value of someone else’s property is sometimes licit, sometimes not. The pivotal thing (for libertarians) is not changing-value but the aggressive encroach on property.

    Perhaps we’re in need of a term for
    -Devaluing another’s creative works

    This would get you out of having to establish that sonnets are property, but what (libertarian) ethical axiom does this contravene?

  • Alan September 15, 2010, 1:08 pm

    Mmm.

    It appears that you wish to control the definition of “property”, maintaining the scarcity element. But why is that?

    Why does property necessarily have to suffer the problem of scarcity?

    It’s part of YOUR definition but not mine, or that of the current legal system.

    Some basic premises I think we agree upon:

    Private property is a good thing
    Contracts are a good thing
    Laws or rules are a good thing, though not necessarily with a monopoly…
    That intellectual property can indeed be damaged, diluted, vandalized or whatever term suits such wilful reduction in value, be it for profit, bragging rights or whatever.

    We also, I think, agree on the basic premises of homesteading, the mixing of one’s labor and creating value, thus ownership and the right to trade, or not, one’s work.

    So it appears that ultimately your entire argument rests upon the fact that software or recorded music and writing can be “stolen without depriving the rightful owner”. Yet you’ve also, I think, agreed that such (suitable term here) can and does deprive the owner of IP of the VALUE of such IP.

    So now the argument is somewhat warped, and to me it loses its logical and moral foundation.

    “Stealing is OK if you steal property that doesn’t immediately deprive the owner of very much” sorta thing?

    Unless of course too many people do it and it wrecks entire industries or prevents their formation, such as rampant piracy has done here in Asia.

    Let’s return to the Federal Reserve issue. We’ll pretend they have no monopoly or legal tender laws and the “dollar” is backed by say 1/500th oz gold. A dream come true… but what stops them from just printing more dollars?

    Then you’d argue it’s “fraud”, right?

    Because they don’t really have that much gold, so they’re diluting the value. Sure.

    But why not? It’s their paper, it’s their ink, it’s their printing press. So why not? Why can’t they do whatever they like with their own private property?

    Because it’s STILL fraud.

    If I mug you in an alley with a .38 Special is that alright, as long as I’ve paid in full for the 38?

    I think, if we’re straight with each other, that we can also agree that the use of private property to commit a crime doesn’t alter the fact it’s a crime, true? So the argument “It’s my recording equipment” doesn’t hold water.

    So we really are just left with “It can’t be property if it’s not scarce”.

    That does of course ignore things such as apples, which literally grow on trees, along with the capital investment, opportunity costs etc.

    It seems to me that in every way shape or form, Intellectual Property IS property, with the sole differenciator being that it can be “freely” replicated – THOUGH DOING SO IS A BREACH OF CONTRACT AND FINANCIALLY HARMS THE OWNER.

    So let’s spin it around. What’s the harm of stealing “normal” property? Merely that it “deprives” them?

    Is that it? That’s the entire moral argument against theft and vandalism, that it deprives someone?

    Of what?

    Of what’s “rightfully theirs” perhaps? Why does it belong to them? Because it’s scarce?

    I don’t think “it’s scarce” is grounds for ownership. You need to determine WHO owns it and why. For that we rely on homesteading (mixing one’s labor to create value) or contracts (trading for it, thus taking ownership or a lease, license, permission or whatever).

    So to me the one big “difference” ie it’s scarce or it’s not scarce, doesn’t actually alter a darn thing. In truth it’s a tiny thing, an irrelevant thing, especially in a modern world where intellectual property is such a massive part of our commerce.

    Awhile ago “property” included ownership of slaves. So what? We’ve successfully updated the definition.

    Much of the rest of the world, though by no means all, has successfully updated the defintion of property to include that which can be easily replicated too.

    You’re essentially arguing that “real property” includes scarcity and slaves. I say you should update your world view. Do away with scarcity and slavery, embrace the modern era, understand that intellectual property DOES exist.

    From there it’s just a matter of morals. To me, breaking contracts and financially hurting people are wrong.

    AC

  • terrymac April 29, 2011, 9:37 am

    Thanks for this article – it clarifies the need to oppose aggression even if we may never see the end-goal of a free-market order.

    As to concrete steps to get there, I think the strongest form of education is example. If we take responsibility for educating our own ( as opposed to government schools ), defending our own ( as opposed to dial 9-1-1 and wait ), financial security ( as opposed to aggression-funded social “security” and pensions ), we’ll have disposed of most of the justifications for aggression, won’t we? It might even catch on.

  • Greg November 26, 2011, 4:18 am

    Hi, I’m quite interested in this Libertarianism thing.
    Correct me if I’m wrong though, does this mean I can publish your (Stephan Kinsella) works under my own name? For profit?

  • Greg November 26, 2011, 4:21 am

    Also , there is a definite undercurrent of Capitalism and fascism around the whole thing. IE let’s all build our own schools, where will the money come from? Let’s all group together and form a state that can take our contributions and build them. Well we have that now. If you disagree with that don’t we need to seek a democratic solution? Wouldn’t the Anarcho-Liberalist approach reject alternative thought more than a democratic one?

  • Travis December 4, 2013, 3:28 am

    I can envision a society where we all get along of course, but it is still inconceivable to actually happen. This article doesn’t really give me the how on Anarcho-Capitalism working, although, from what I got from the article, it isn’t what Stephan was trying to inform people about. The reason I believe that system will not work is this: what do we do if someone invades on our privacy? Pay for private police to send them to a private jail and then the case is heard in a private court in which they derive their reasoning off private legislation (all of these parts of this process could be governed by the same business or contracted) making their own laws or social norms? Couldn’t this lead to conflict with other competitors in these same industries? This is a legitimate question in which I ask in pure benevolence.

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