Anarchy and the Underpants Gnomes

I have made a number of comments on the thread of fellow writer Rocco’s post “Too Unlimited; Adventures in Constitutional Scepticism”, which, in the bloody ongoing feud between anarchists and minarchists, takes the side of the former. Much of the argument I can accept, as it is certainly the case that a constitutionally-guaranteed right does not necessarily stop a rampaging state, but pointing out the difficulties of limiting state power does not make the case for anarchy, especially when I am not entirely sure the anarchists know what they will either put in its place, or if the answer to this is nothing, how they will prevent others from filling the vacuum?

Thus I remarked: “I don’t really understand what you are proposing, and I’m beginning to suspect neither do you.”

To which Rocco responded;

“No monopoly rule-enforcer is required for men to live together. How precisely any particular breach of the rules would be handled in an imaginary “anarchic” situation is impossible to say a priori.”

This to me is not a satisfactory answer. Indeed it reminds me of South Park’s famous Underpants Gnomes, who were busily amassing underpants as a means to make a profit. Just how this was expected to do so, however, remained somewhat mysterious:

Returning to the subject of anarchy, the offer seems to be:

Phase one: Abolish the state. Phase two: ? Phase three; Harmony between men.

Whatever comprises Phase two, going by the quote from Rocco it must include agreeing a set of rules, for the statement to make any sense. As such, this state of anarchy will begin with some kind of social contract, however informal. If there is, per specification, no monopoly rule-enforcer, there must surely be some mechanism for enforcement of contracts, or if this is too strong, some kind of punishment through ostracism for defaulters.

Separate to contractual matters comes self-defence against violent aggression. Assuming each individual has the natural right to self-defence, then he also has the right to delegate this right, or to combine with others to form a mutual defence association. Thus, so far into the empty space left by the expiring state, we find a set of agreed rules, which I would call a social contract, and one or more mutual defence associations. These measures seem unavoidable if any kind of society is to exist, and if entered into voluntarily and only operating defensively, they are compatible with libertarian principles.

However, not everyone wants to live in peace with his neighbours. Without the apparatus of the state, there are other options to those above for the maliciously-inclined. Firstly, one may choose to be a petty criminal. Secondly, one may choose to band together in a predatory way in order to live by plunder. I shall call this the warlord option. Neither of these is permissible under the libertarian philosophy, but they are very likely to occur in a state of anarchy, as they do in a state with a functioning government, police force, legal system etc.

Based on the preceding, each individual has a choice of four options:

1)      Agree to a social contract and join a Mutual Defence Association.

2)      Keep aloof from the above, but try to live peacefully and possibly self-sufficiently.

3)      Join or form a predatory warlord militia.

4)      Live as a lone-wolf predator.

Options number one and three both represent systems which could evolve to take the place of the vanished state. The distinction between the two at the early stage is easy to see; one is voluntary and defensive, the other is predatory and offensive, and if both exist at the same time, the relationship between them will be that which exists between different nations, i.e. a Lockean state of nature, with the choice of ‘live and let live’ or ‘live and let die’.

No doubt I have overlooked and simplified many things. For instance option number one as stated sounds very individualistic, but it could take the form of a collectivist commune and still contain a social contract and a responsibility for mutual defence. Nevertheless, were the state to disappear, and ignoring the possibility of foreign intervention, it would most likely be replaced in a short space of time by a number of proto-republics and outlaw states, which would present us all with the same problems of governance and state gangsterism, but on a smaller scale.

When considering such things, more effort is needed to distinguish between what is the state, what is the law and what is government. It seems to me anarchists sometimes do not do this, and then must take refuge in vagueness, for fear of conceding anything which might drag them back towards the dreaded minarchist position.

30 Comments

  1. Firstly, “Too unlimited…” is not about anarchy vs minarchy. It is a criticism of the belief in the power of constitutions to limit government. No mention of anarchy occurs in the piece. Apart from the signature (Rocco is a market anarchist etc) at the end, the first time the term appears on the page is in your first comment, Richard. Congratulations on derailing a comments thread in order to pick an argument with me. You must be very proud.

    Secondly, my full response was “Would it help if I threw in a few thee’s and thou’s? You know, seventeenth century it up a bit for you” followed by the quote you include above. This is a reference to your antiquarian interests which have impaired your ability to understand political theories that aren’t a few hundred years old. And, lo and behold you’ve posted an article on the social contract as some sort of devastating critique of anarchy!

    Thirdly, another part of my reply to you (the bit in parenthesis) which you don’t quote above, was that you would accept my explanation in any other context. For example, if someone were to ask you “in your libertarian paradise, who would build the roads?”, you would answer “well, obviously I can’t specify exactly who would build them, there being a free market and all”. If your opponent jumped on this with “ha! So you admit that there wouldn’t be any roads!”, you would see immediately how stupid a response that is.

    Fourthly, I provided three quotes, with references, to explain my position to you – all of which are freely available to download. Perhaps you might read them, instead of making weak jokes about “anarcho-naturism”.

    Finally, as you’re such a big South Park fan, I’m sure you’ll appreciate this classic line: suck my balls.

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  2. Rocco,

    to give a more detailed response:

    “Firstly, “Too unlimited…” is not about anarchy vs minarchy. It is a criticism of the belief in the power of constitutions to limit government. ”

    I concede this. However, you are coming from, as you note, a market anarchist position, so I don’t consider it ‘derailing the comment thread’ to bring up anarchy. In any case, you did not complain at the time, but rather responded with an attack on minarchy. As for wishing to pick an argument with you, that’s kind of the point of comment threads, at least insofar as the argument is relevant. If it was not relevant, you should have said at the beginning.

    “This is a reference to your antiquarian interests which have impaired your ability to understand political theories that aren’t a few hundred years old.”

    This is really just ad hominem. I’m not sure what modern political theories you think I cannot understand, but I expect they’re not as modern as you think they are.

    “And, lo and behold you’ve posted an article on the social contract as some sort of devastating critique of anarchy!”

    I did nothing of the kind, I merely described the agreeing of a set of rules as “some kind of social contract, however informal”. You yourself maintain that rules would need to exist. I think the term is reasonable in the context. I did not intend it as any kind of critique of anarchy. The purpose of the post is to think about what would be likely to arise in a state of anarchy, and as long as such a contract, or call it what you will, is voluntarily entered into, it is wholly in keeping with anarchy.

    “Thirdly, another part of my reply to you (the bit in parenthesis) which you don’t quote above, was that you would accept my explanation in any other context. For example, if someone were to ask you “in your libertarian paradise, who would build the roads?”…”

    This is not a parallel of our dispute. I am not arguing that your position means there would be no laws (or rules, if you prefer) and no means of settling disputes. Rather, I believe there would indeed be these things, and I am suggesting in the above post how they may come into being in a state of anarchy. My dispute with you is not that you are unwilling to present a detailed utopia, but that you don’t seem to accept the implications of your own arguments and are not willing to consider the likely scenarios that would result from anarchy.

    “Fourthly, I provided three quotes, with references, to explain my position to you”

    I read them. They may explain your position, but they didn’t answer the simple question that I had posed, which was about how someone was supposed to deal with an act of of aggression. But don’t worry, I’m not waiting for an answer.

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    1. “The most elementary form of enforcement, of course, is retaliation against the trespasser, the robber, the usurper, and the defaulter.”

      Read harder.

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      1. Yes, of course, but this is only a starting point. The right of self-defence implies the right of mutual defence. The issue under discussion is how society will evolve alternatives and improvements to the ‘most elementary form of enforcement’.

        You seem to be reluctant to consider the question, claiming that it is impossible to say what would happen in any particular situation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t consider what is likely to happen in general. The fundamental question is whether in a state of anarchy mutual voluntary action alone, with no violation of the NAP necessary, would lead to the establishment of some form of government, however initially minimal and however strictly delegated the power it wields?

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  3. Anarcho capitalism might work (I just do not know) – but those who support it need to explain, in practical terms, HOW it would work.

    Rocco seems to sincerely believe he is answering questions – when he gives quotations from various thinkers (none of the quotations he gives actually explain how anarcho capitalism would work in practice) or just repeats his vision, He is interested in the vision – not in the practical work of trying to limit the state (by voting to keep down taxes and against spending – and representing people who have been grabbed by lunatic regulations), still less in the practical business of replacing the state (if that is possible).

    There may be a case for anarcho capitalism (I repeat – I do not know), but Rocco is not making it.

    Perhaps he should start by thinking about his town (wherever he lives) and think about “if all government vanished tomorrow – what would we do here against looters and so on” in his own town.

    I repeat it may be that practical plans for anarcho capitalism are possible – but Rocco needs to explain them.

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  4. 2 questions and thoughts for the panellists to comment on if possible:

    1. Does a breakdown in government have to occur before the market can develop agreed rules or codes of conduct, or can they be developed in advance so that they are ready at the time the breakdown occurs. To put it another way, is Libertarian Home itself and this series of debates on the topic of constitution part of a market response regardless of the incumbent political system? In which case part of the argument is merely about chronology.

    2. It’s hard to enough to agree with my wife on the conversations we had a few days ago, let alone agree on the accepted norms of non violent conduct in society. Is a written constitution partly so everyone can remember what they agreed in the first place? Of course the validity depends on people agreeing and enforcing this, but as minutes of an agreed decision perhaps it is helpful.

    I’m speaking as one who is genuinely on the fence at this moment, yet enjoying and learning from your (non-bloody) war of words.

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    1. If one was confused about this blogs editorial position on chronology (and I know you aren’t Zach) then one can simply check the top right corner of the homepage.

      For the panel, given we might be a few decades away from step zero, never mind step 1, of what importance is step 2? I think it is important, very important, but given there is at least a 50/50 chance of joining the decagenarian dead before seeing it then it is not worth calling each other names over right now.

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    2. Zach,

      ” Does a breakdown in government …”

      Although the distinction is virtually irrelevant at this time, I think it important to separate government from state. To answer the question, it’s hard to imagine a breakdown in the state which didn’t bring most of society crashing down at the same time, as the state has amassed such monopoly powers to itself, but in smaller matters, if the state were to relinquish power in a particular area in an orderly way, then there’s no reason that the transition cannot be smooth, such as, I suppose, when something is privatised.

      On the issue of developing libertarian solutions in the here and now, this is one of Simon’s passions, and there is plenty of scope. For instance, many police forces are basically refusing to investigate whole categories of crime. Thus a gap in the market appears for a private investigation service (although the authorities would no doubt resent and hamper it).

      “Is a written constitution partly so everyone can remember what they agreed in the first place?”

      I would say so. Without the law, and a constitution is a law, being written down, who can say what it is?

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      1. My confused question probably reflects my state of mind after reading the 3 articles in this series, as well as all the comments, whilst trying to focus on the content of the arguments rather than the passions of the those presenting them!
        In that the argument draws out the important questions – this has been achieved.
        ‘LibertarianHome – makes you think’
        Thank you.

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  5. I’m still perplexed as to whether is supposed to be a criticism of what Rocco wrote or anarchism in general because if it’s the latter, it’s not very good.

    >>> especially when I am not entirely sure the anarchists know what they will either put in its place, or if the answer to this is nothing, how they will prevent others from filling the vacuum

    Your question here is analogous to “Who will pick the cotton once we’ve abolished slavery?” or “Who will make the shoes when we abolish State factories?”. The answer is twofold:
    * I don’t care, the State is evil and must be abolished (libertarian).
    * Based on empirical evidence and current conditions, it is likely that a voluntary insurance based protection will replace current monopoly of security production (economist).

    In essence, what you’re asking the anarchists to give you is a blueprint for the next Uber. Some might have ideas about how to provide such services but only market test will determine which ones will be successful.

    >>> As such, this state of anarchy will begin with some kind of social contract, however informal.

    Social contract is a redundancy. Each contract is social in the sense that it’s between moral agents (e.g. humans). If what you meant is social contract as understood by statists then no as such ideas would be rejected by individuals who reject the State. There is a major difference between an implied contract between the restaurant owner not to poison his guests and a wishy-washy concept of “everyone agrees to present exploitation by not leaving the territory or killing themselves”.

    >>> These measures seem unavoidable if any kind of society is to exist, and if entered into voluntarily and only operating defensively, they are compatible with libertarian principles.

    However, they might not be, not necessarily, yet anarchy would still work better compared to a statist system. For example, there may be people who wish to prosecute users of heroine even though this means additional expenses for them, via an insurance premium or otherwise. In David Friedman’s view, law would be produced mostly for profit and thus there may be various legal systems competing at once in any given territory, different people effectively living under different laws based on to which defence agency, court etc. they subscribe, not necessarily libertarian.

    >>> Options number one and three both represent systems which could evolve to take the place of the vanished state.

    Unlikely given competition and inability to extract revenue without going into great expense because violence is expensive (State exploitation today is relatively cheap). Even if, then we would have the State as we have now. So what? How is that an argument against anarchism?

    >>> The distinction between the two at the early stage is easy to see; one is voluntary and defensive, the other is predatory and offensive

    The anarchist argument is not that an anarchistic society is a nirvana, it’s that given any group of people (let’s call them a society), anarchy is preferable to a State. For example, the proportion of violent or people willing to commit aggression in Denmark appears to be lower than in, say, South Africa. Anarchist therefore concludes that anarchy would work better in Denmark than SA but in both cases it’s preferable to a State.

    >>> Nevertheless, were the state to disappear, and ignoring the possibility of foreign intervention, it would most likely be replaced in a short space of time by a number of proto-republics and outlaw states, which would present us all with the same problems of governance and state gangsterism, but on a smaller scale.

    This might be true but again, anarchist would argue that given the level of aggression amongst people, limiting the centralised power of State to commit atrocities is better than having a central agency of such power to terrorise a large territory.

    Then again, you could be entirely wrong as the idea of anarchy has to be accepted by a significant portion of a given population for them to abolish the State. And such people would surely be of the opinion that State is a predator on a society that thus be vigilant against any attempt at its creation.

    To put it in other words, I’d rather have 200 Luxembourgs with a comparatively small ability to aggress against others, even if some of them are rogue, than having one United States with the power to destroy the world dozen of times over. Corollary to this is the irrefutable fact that any minarchist must be, even if he denies it, for a single World government as any political borders are arbitrary and if Monaco can be a State, so can my plot of land.

    >>> When considering such things, more effort is needed to distinguish between what is the state, what is the law and what is government.

    I suggest your read Rothbard, D. Friedman, Hoppe and others on this. The anarchist movement is at least 100 years old, whether of the individualist type or outright communists. If you’re interested in the history of law itself, read this

    >>> It seems to me anarchists sometimes do not do this, and then must take refuge in vagueness, for fear of conceding anything which might drag them back towards the dreaded minarchist position.

    That might be your impression but I ask, how many anarchists have YOU read?

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  6. Let’s say a company approaches, a software developer and says “develop the best AJAX enabled checkout workflow you can possibly conceive and I’ll give you lot’s of money” and the software developer does it and the company turns out to be going bust. The company cannot pay the bill because it committed itself to pay software developers (lot’s of them) but did not commit it’s customers to pay it. In that situation, even with the assistance of the law then the software developer is basically screwed. He can spend a shit ton of money getting revenge (*with* the help of police and courts) or he can walk away and go earn new money building CMS systems and admin interfaces and delay the purchase of his house, the commissioning of his wedding etc until the money is replaced.

    This cautionary and somewhat autobiographical tale is meant to illustrate that getting retribution or restitution for a wrong doing is hard. It is in fact very hard indeed, even with the help of a legal system. I would venture that this system needs to be made easier, that different schemes for the registration and preventative monitoring of commercial promises ought to be developed. That default ought to be regularly insured against and money made available to investigate if any fraud had taken place. Of course, as a libertarian I assume that a market player, such as a trade association, would do this. Not the police.

    This serves as an example of an idea of how a market might do what is effectively a law enforcement job. It is, however, not a political statement. It is in fact a business idea (feel free, it is not patented). The political observation, if there is one, is that more stuff ought to be done by innovative businesses and politicians ought not to do these things. From a political perspective I am saying that the problem OUGHT to remain UNSOLVED, but I am also able to offer suggestions about how society ought to do stuff non-politically.

    You could say that this is step 2, and I have solved the problem. But I think that it is step 1, and the abolish the state step is not entailed in what I believe. It may end up being necessary, if the anarchict speculation about the regrowth of the state from minarchy is correct, but I doubt that minarchy will be found to be all that bad.

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  7. In Civil Law – private Law Merchant often worked (Lord Mansfield incorporated it into Common Law), the difficulty was in criminal law.

    But it may not be impossible to overcome that difficulty. And even the defence problem may be overcome.

    I just do not know.

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  8. In the hopes of clarifying matters:

    The post “Too unlimited: Adventures in constitutional scepticism” [which appears at Strict Liberalism under the title “Constitutions are for suckers”] attempts to show that so-called “limits” on governments are powerless to contain a determined government, and – a more “ivory tower” point – cannot be known with certainty, in political systems resting on the consent of the governed, to be the determining factor in preventing certain specific actions of government.

    I approached the question differently there than I have elsewhere, so, for those who might as yet be undecided,I’ll give the simplest version now:

    If a constitution is a contract between State and society, there is an insurmountable problem in that one party (the State) is also the enforcer of that contract.

    NB There is nothing here about the “practicality” of anarchy; there is no mention made of anarchy at all. It is entirely possible to deny both the practicality of anarchy and the possibility of limited government at one and the same time.

    Regarding the practicality of anarchy, however, I have nowhere said that were the State to collapse right now a perfectly peaceful anarchic utopia would immediately spring up. What I have said – all that I have said – is that it is possible for men to live together without a State. That this must be so can be seen by this:

    If a third-party is necessary for men to cooperate with one another, then no government could ever be formed. The members of the government must cooperate with each other to be a government, yet there is no third-party enforcer, no super-government over it. We can extend this to “the social contract” that supposedly takes us out of the “state-of-nature”: if government must exist for men to keep their promises to one another (if, per Hobbes, contracts without the sword are but “vain breath”) then the social contract must be “vain breath”, too, unless there is a higher body to enforce it, and a higher one to enforce this, and a higher one to enforce this, etc, etc, etc, and so on to infinity.

    So men must be able to live together without government, at least as long as certain rules are in place and enforced. Rules can be divided into two classes, laws and conventions. Following de Jasay, I say that conventions are the only class compatible with a liberal order. A law presupposes a lawmaker whose “will is law” and whom all must blindly agree to follow in advance. Moreover, no law can ever be legitimate: each law must be justified by reference to a higher one, up to a (Jasay’s term) “rule of rule-making” such as “whatever the king says goes”, or “whatever a majority says goes”. This in turn can only be justified by reference to a yet higher rule (a rule of rules of rule-making), and so on and so on.

    Conventions on the other hand, have no problems with an infinite regress (as they emerge spontaneously), nor do they require a man to submit to the will of another. The conventions of “finders keepers”, first come first served, what Hume calls “the stability of possession and it’s transference by consent”, the keeping of promises and contracts, have emerged in just about every society known to history – they have done so because they “maximize long-run payoffs”; everyone is better off if they are followed. A community the majority of whom followed these conventions – and accepted the responsiblity and cost of enforcing them – could obviously survive without a government. What any such society would look like, and the methods used by its members to enforce its rules can not be known in advance.

    In sum, if government is possible then a libertarian or anarchist society is possible. It might not be possible “right now” of course, but what we are engaged in here and elsewhere, in a variety of ways – convincing people to adopt our beliefs – is what can make it possible in the future. Although, personally, I have little-to-no faith in any such society ever being achieved, human nature being what it is.

    (For more on the possibility of anarchism the interested reader might have a look at “Is government inevitable?” by Peter Leeson and Edward Stringham)

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    1. The thing is that Constitutions are NOT “for suckers” – if that were true then (for example) States that forbid deficit spending would have vast debts – and they do not.

      Also (at the Federal level) there is no doubt that the United States would be as bad as Britain (in regards to both lack of freedom of speech and lack of the right to keep and bear arms) were it not for the First and Second Amendments.

      If someone says “this Constitution is not properly worded – there are loopholes that allow the government to do things it should not do” then I AGREE with them, but if someone says “Constitutions are for suckers” then I can NOT agree with them – and for the same reason.

      The reason being the historical record (the evidence) – we do not need to speculate, we can observe (the actual Court Cases over the years and centuries).

      The central principle should be that Constitutions must be “granting documents” not “permissive documents” – i.e. the principle should be “if the text does not say you [the government] can do this specific thing – then you can not do it”, not “you [the government] can do anything you like – as long as the Constitution does not specifically forbid you doing something, then you do it.

      This is why such terms as the “general welfare” or “the public interest” or “reasons of state” should NOT appear in any legal document. Experience has shown that they are open door to wild government spending and regulations.

      In the specific context of the United States (Federal) Constitution.

      The words “regulate interstate commerce” (if it means “there shall be free trade between the States” that is what it should SAY) , and “the general welfare” should be voided (either by Amendment or by Convention) and the word “specifically” added to the Tenth Amendment (it was in the original draft).

      “But what about corrupt judges?”

      These certainly exist (one reason why I would prefer Constitutional disputes to be settled by JURY), but even the most corrupt judges need something-to-work-with.

      Two centuries of experience have shown us what the flaws are in the Constitution of the United States – i.e. what words big government supporters have managed to use in the legal cases.

      “Paul you are obsessed with the concrete – you neglect high theory”.

      If anyone makes that complaint – I plead GUILTY.

      Most people are “either like Aristotle or they are like Plato”.

      This does not mean we are as intelligent as Aristotle or Plato – it is a matter of personality.

      I am in the Aristotelian “tribe” – like Edmund Burke I am interested in the concrete (in the actual things of everyday life – what Plato called “the shadows on the cave wall” and despised).

      “You mean what is in front of your nose – like what colour the sign is, or whether there should be a sign there at all.”.

      Yes – again I plead guilty.

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  9. ‘The central principle should be that Constitutions must be “granting documents” not “permissive documents” – i.e. the principle should be “if the text does not say you [the government] can do this specific thing – then you can not do it”’

    That is what the US constitution explicitly says!
    There were NOT loopholes written into the US constitution. The loopholes were put in later by “interpreting” clauses to mean the opposite of what they clearly and unambiguously said.

    The reason freedom of speech and the right to bear arms are (to a limited extent) still in effect in the US is NOT that they are witten into the constitution. It is the fact that the people (or at least a large enough fraction of them) are determinined to hold on to those rights. Now, the constitution serves as a standard around which to rally. It also provides the authority of tradition. But if censorship and gun prohibition became acceptable to the public, then they would be enacted despite the constitution, just as hundreds of other unconstitutional laws have been enacted already.

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    1. I agree, Duke, except that as someone mentioned above, the written Constitution does set out the rules in a fixed form so that anyone who cares can see what they actually are supposed to be. (For some value of “supposed to.”)

      In the last analysis it’s everyone’s commitment to understanding and following the Constitution as closely as humanly possible that enforces it and constitutes our protection.

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  10. “Assuming each individual has the natural right to self-defence, then he also has the right to delegate this right, or to combine with others to form a mutual defence association. Thus, so far into the empty space left by the expiring state, we find a set of agreed rules, which I would call a social contract, and one or more mutual defence associations. These measures seem unavoidable if any kind of society is to exist, and if entered into voluntarily and only operating defensively, they are compatible with libertarian principles.”

    First, that is not a “social contract” in the usual sense of that term. It is simply a contract. A “social contract” is a mythical beast, quite different from a real contract: never signed by anybody, supposed to be binding on everybody for all time.

    Second, it is compatible with libertarian principles only so long as it remains voluntary. You can even call it a “government”, if you like, and so long as its “subjects” are free to “secede”, it is acceptable to libertarians. But it isn’t a state on the well-known Weberian definition.

    On the other hand, if it extorts revenue from unwilling payers (except in the form of restitution from criminals) and/or claims a continuing monopoly of “defending” the property of persons who no longer wish to be “defended” by it, only then does it constitute a state. But then it also becomes un-libertarian, and for precisely the same reasons why it is a state. There is no such thing as a libertarian state. Minarchism is not one form of libertarianism, but rather one enemy of libertarianism.

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    1. Duke,

      I have run across this criticism of common usage of the term “social contract” before. But if this usage departs from Mr. Weber’s, what did he mean by it?

      As for the issue of “the State” vs. “the government.” People are always asking, “What is the State?” There are articles in learned journals with that title.

      Anybody who wants to know what the word is understood to mean can simply repair to the dictionary — preferably a decent one, such as the 1933 OED.

      “But,” screech the Intelligentsia real or wannabe, “since when is the dictionary the arbiter of philosophy?”

      It isn’t. But as in the comments about the fixity of the Constitution, if we all start from the same dictionary definition we will all be starting with the same meaning. Then people who wish to alter that meaning somewhat in this direction or that can try to talk others into going along with them, or discuss variations of the concept, or whatever; as long as they keep in mind the basic starting point, they may actually get somewhere.

      The question never is, really, “What is X?” Rather, it is “What is meant by X?” “When we say ‘X,’ what is the referent?”

      In that spirit, I note that Wikipedia’s article on “the State,” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State , lists five senses in which the word is used (politically speaking). Two fundamental usages, and a third:

      State (polity), an organized political community, living under a government

      Sovereign state, a sovereign political entity in public international law; a society having exclusive domain over a territory

      “State”, in some contexts virtually synonymous with “government”, e.g., to distinguish state (government) from private schools

      If one hasn’t the 1933 OED near to hand, I would recommend Webster’s, 1913 Edition, as the preferable on-line dictionary, as it is not dumbed-down, does give some etymology, and appears to be written without undue bias or the 1913 version of PC. In particular, its definitions numbers 9-14 of the word “state” are germane to our topic here.

      http://machaut.uchicago.edu/?resource=Webster%27s&word=state&use1913=on

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    2. Duke of Anarchy. In war totally respecting all private property rights tends to mean one LOSES (which is a bad thing even for those people whose property rights one has respected).

      The Rothbardian reply to that point is to claim that every war is really the fault of the West – so we need not worry about losing wars as there will be no wars (if only we do not start them).

      The problem with this view of history is that it is false.

      A false view of military science (oh yes there is such a thing as military science) and a false view of history.

      A trouble with a lot of anarchist thought is that assumes away the existence of the enemy – seeing the only threat to private property rights as the British (or American) government.

      There does not appear to be any anarchist answer to the Nazis in 1939 (other than a Rothbardian claim that the war was really the fault of Britain) or the Marxists in the Cold War (apart from the Rothbardian claim that the Cold War was the fault of Britain and the United States). And there does not appear to be any anarchist answer to modern problems either.

      For example, how would anarchists deal with the growing Islamic threat (both Sunni and Shia) – both in terms of governments (for example the government of Iran) and growing populations of believing Muslims (it is important to draw a distinction between believing followers of Mohammed and nominal Muslims) in Western countries?

      The truthful answer appears to be that anarchists could not deal with these problems – that they would not have a hope in any conflict with the forces of Islam.

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    3. That is just semantics. You consider anarcho-capitalism and libertarianism to be synonyms. Many others do not, and when the brand name “Libertarian Home” is used that is not the usage that is intended. My usage is more like that of Wikipedia, for instance, although I exclude the left-wing.

      You might say, uncontroversially on these pages, that “there is no such thing as an anarcho-capitalist state. Minarchism is not one form of anarcho-capitalism, but rather one enemy of anarcho-capitalism” and I would simply disagree that we need to be enemies.

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  11. Duke of Anarchy – I actually wrote out the weak wording in the Constitution of the United States. The lack of the word “specifically” in the Tenth Amendment (it is there in the draft, but it is NOT there in the final text – something that has been ruthlessly exploited) and the presence of the words “general welfare” and “regulate interstate commerce” in the text (Article One, Section Eight).

    I agree with you that these words have been misinterpreted (often deliberately) – but the point is that they (the words “general welfare” and “regulate interstate commerce”) should not be in the text (and they are in the text) and the word “specifically” should be in Tenth Amendment (and it is not).

    Please do not reply — I resent having to waste what little time I have left in my life, repeating myself.

    I have now repeated myself – let that be enough.

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  12. “There does not appear to be any anarchist answer to the Nazis in 1939”

    What was the Polish answer to the Nazis in 1939? What was the Belgian answer?

    If you happen to be a small and weak nation living next to a large, rich, aggressive empire, you may very well get stomped on. That problem is not specific to anarcho-captialist societies.

    I can think of three obvious and non-exclusive ways for libertarians to approach this problem:

    1. Arm ourselves heavily in the hope of deterring any aggressor. This does not mean being able to defeat any enemy, but rather being able to impose costs greater than the value of the conquest. Switzerland does this pretty well.

    2. Economy of scale. If a large country like the USA were to go over to anarcho-capitalism, a competitive market for private defense agencies could easily result in a dozen agencies each commanding military forces comparable to those of the average modern nation-state. Ultimately, we are not aiming for “libertarianism in one country,” but for “world revolution”. The larger the fraction of the world that comes over to us, the smaller the problem posed by the remnant nation-states.

    3. In the meantime, retain a minimal national-defense-only state as a transitional arrangement. I consider the myth of political authority to be the main problem. If we can ever convince people that the state should not exist, in the ideal future, I don’t think it would be a big problem to keep it around as a–temporarily–necessary evil.

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  13. Duke of Anarchy.

    It is possible that a large enough private company would have been able to defeat National Socialist Germany.

    I think it unlikely (for various reasons) – but I can not formally say it is “impossible”, because it is not impossible.

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