Video: Democracies, Republics and other unnecessary evils

Two hundred and thirty six years after a democratic republic called the United States of America was signed into existence by its founders we assembled to consider what our present systems really look like in practice, and discuss some alternatives. Jan C Lester provides his definition and commentary and sets out why he thinks we’re better off with nobody at all in charge.

As a good open minded objectivist (and “closed system” advocate) I should really register my disagreement at this point but I found Jan Lester’s argument for complete Anarchy quite persuasive. Rand’s main objection to anarchy was founded on the idea that, for an individual, having multiple Governments meant that they could not know how a dispute was to be adjudicated and any serious dispute would escalate to into a de facto war between private enforcement agencies.

One illustration will be sufficient: suppose Mr. Smith, a customer of Government A, suspects that his next-door neighbor, Mr. Jones, a customer of Government B, has robbed him; a squad of Police A proceeds to Mr. Jones’ house and is met at the door by a squad of Police B, who declare that they do not accept the validity of Mr. Smith’s complaint and do not recognize the authority of Government A. What happens then? You take it from there.

However, Frederick Cookinham seems to reconcile Anarchism to Objectivism in his book The Age of Rand, believing Rand to be labouring under a misunderstanding of the anarchic system. He points out that the competing sources of justice in the proposed system are not Governments have different powers and incentives and could not or would not fight such a war.

Rand also wrote:

even a society whose every member were fully rational and faultlessly moral, could not function in a state of anarchy; it is the need of objective laws and of an arbiter for honest disagreements among men that necessitates the establishment of a government.

During the Q&A on Thursday I was asked “so are you suddenly an anarchist?” Of course, anarchy is a political theory, not a metaphysical, epistemological, ethical or aesthetic theory so it is much narrower. If I were persuaded that anarchism was a better political theory than an objectivist minarchy then I would still be an objectivist, I would simply see myself as differing from other objectivists in the area of politics.

So, am I persuaded that anarchy is a better political theory than objectivist minarchy? No, for the reason that an individual is only free when he knows in advance where his freedom ends and the rights of others begin, and that is what laws should be set down to decide. I have no doubt at all that a company could produce a document containing such a set of laws, but how would they be circulated and enforced in an anarchic society such that every individual knew what choices were open to him and which closed?