As a libertarian, I think most, if not all, of us have our own niche. I find one of the core concepts of liberty is to allow for maximum innovation from as many actors as possible, allowing each individual to decide how s/he spreads freedom in the world. Some do social media, some do organic farming, some do political activism, some do writing, and so forth. There are niches to be filled everywhere for each individual versus the counter-productive way of a one-size-fits-all solution.

Right now, I am still in the process of discovering what I want my niche to be. Recently, I was in an interview where beforehand I was asked what I’d like to talk about. I have written on a couple of subjects that I am passionate about, such as Austrian Economics or market anarchism. However, a discussion into the complex methodology of Austrian Economics would be far too vast to cover in one interview, and for anarchism — at least how everything might work out in an anarchist society — the same thing applies too. After mulling it over for a few moments, it occurred to me that part of my current niche is engaging with limited-government libertarians, aka minarchists.

This was reaffirmed even more for me when the interviewer asked if I read anything that flipped the switch for me in my conversion to anarchism, to which I responded eagerly with Chapter 10 of Murray Rothbard’s For A New Liberty, “The Public Sector, I: Government in Business.” I reference it frequently, as it really presents an argument against the state in the economy that I had not heard prior to that, and it was so simple to comprehend, so I urge those reading to read themselves in hopes that it will do the same for others. In my own case for anarchy versus limited government, I won’t try to come anywhere even close to Rothbard in this, but I will still try to explain it to you as clearly as he had.

Since the Rand Paul Filibuster, and reading that book, this has been something I have been taking part of more and more. Don’t get me wrong, if I run across a full-fledged advocate for big government out there I will still oblige him or her. Lately, however, this niche I am referring to is much “closer to home”.

Since the filibuster, both minarchists and anarchists have had an ongoing “war” with each other over what type of society would be an ideal society, and this has resulted in the inevitable calling of names, such as “statist” or “purist.” Admittedly, I was initially one of those “purists” that joined in on the side of anarchism but have calmed down since then. While I still hold the conviction that a stateless society is preferable, I attempt to engage with minarchists in a more civil manner to cut to the heart of the disagreement and have a useful discourse on the subject.

Becoming an anarchist isn’t an overnight transition from advocating a limited state. It takes time, as any anarchist will tell you. To paraphrase what I have said elsewhere, if I could fit anarchism onto a bumper sticker, we’d all be anarchists. Unfortunately, it can’t be explained so easily. There are a lot of “what if” and “who would” questions that need to be answered.

I said above that every individual should be able to decide how s/he spreads freedom in the world. There are many examples of this in the “liberty movement.”  Take for instance, Julie Borowski. Julie has been on the scene for quite some time. She is known for her quirky videos and utilizing numerous areas of social media to spread liberty concepts, and doing it quite well whether you agree with her conclusions or not.

Furthermore, while Julie’s videos are appealing to staunch individualists like me, her main audience are those who are new to libertarianism or not quite libertarians. And that is where individuals like me come in.  It is for this reason I appreciate individuals like Julie because they put people on the path to liberty, where people like myself may be able to teach them where she left off, be it through my own words and knowledge or providing resources for them.

Now, as I said, there are a lot of questions to be answered about anarchism in terms of how the market could provide for the wants and needs of individuals, including the things even limited government libertarians think the State must do. Unfortunately, due to the time and complexity involved in explaining how these things could be provided, I can’t discuss them here — instead my focus will be to answer some of these objections in a basic manner in order to attempt to plant a seed. I feel that often we, as anarchists, jump right into how these things could work, which no doubt is important, instead of approaching it from the angle I will be attempting today. That is, in a manner that will hopefully put limited government libertarians outside of their comfort zone.

Since I have been a libertarian, I have found this to be nothing new or novel as many prominent libertarians have used the same tactics. Like Ron Paul when he attacked the use of drug laws after heroin was brought up in the debates; Or Rothbard with his essay Anatomy of the State; You have Nozick with his Tale of the Slave; Spooner in his analogy with The State vs. the Highwayman; and even Milton Friedman in his discussion on greed with Donahue.

As most know, Nozick, Ron Paul*, and Friedman weren’t anarchists but this makes no difference. It’s about ideas. These gentleman, along with the above examples of their allegories and methods, are prime examples of how they got readers and listeners to step out of the box for a moment. Obviously, when it comes to anarchism it is more complex than just a simple story or argument. The points raised by each of them need to be put under the microscope for analysis as to why they came to those conclusions, but the points remain. They discussed those concepts in a manner that many have not yet heard. Even those that disagree with what some of the above libertarians said may be curious to know why it was said, which cause them to “tumble down the rabbit hole” further. Sometimes things need to be explained so simply, sometimes things need to be thrown in the face of us all the way these thinkers did in order for a spark to be ignited.

 I don’t claim to be anywhere near the level of stature or intelligence as the men I named, so the best I can do is try and duplicate their methodology for those who read this.

As Rothbard eloquently put it:

“For it is one of the most admirable qualities of the demagogue that he forces men to think, some for the first time in their lives. Out of the muddle of current ideas, both fashionable and unfashionable, he extracts some and pushes them to their logical conclusions, i.e. “to extremes.” He thereby forces people either to reject their loosely held views as unsound, or to find them sound and to pursue them to their logical consequences.”

That being said, some of the arguments I will be presenting here against some of the objections raised by minarchists are presented in an attempt to force those same individuals out of their comfort zone by presenting them with ideas far beyond anything they have previously considered. True, some may reject this and appeal to their norm or brush it off, but some will think about it and so they may begin their search for the truth of the matter.

People are Bad, Therefore…

The most common argument against a stateless society is that due to “human nature” we need a State. Without one, it is claimed, no one is to prevent robbers from stealing from us, murderers from killing us, and so on. Before we address the crux of this argument, there is something to be said about “human nature,” which is the only thing you can say about it without just making shit up: We have preferred ends and employ means to achieve them. Sometimes violence presents itself as a suitable means to a given end — such as the State many people advocate, but this does not mean that humans left to their own devices will automatically degenerate into violence, as advocates of even limited-government seem to think. 

“If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?”  

Frederic Bastiat says it perfectly here. Additionally, if I were to ask, I wonder if those individuals would admit they’re violent by nature and it’s only by a superhuman effort feat of meditation and self-control that they are able to stop themselves from slaughtering everyone they see. I doubt they would consider this to be the case.

 In the Federalist Papers, James Madison wrote in defense of a state, that certain “checks and balances” were needed; that since men are not angels, being without a state would lead to what anarchy, unfortunately, is usually depicted as: chaos.

As Madison argued:

“[T]he great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defence must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

This objection is rather easy to answer, as an anarchist, and I assume many anarchists reading this are familiar with the response: if humans are as bad as skeptics infer, why would you want to put people in power with a monopoly on force? Or in other words, if people are truly greedy, bad, and desiring to murder us, isn’t it an even worse idea to institutionalize these vices in the hands of people with little to no accountability? So, essentially, if we don’t institutionalize it, some bad things may happen, therefore we must institutionalize it. See, a private individual can extort money from me and even without the state that person can be brought to justice. However, with a State, it is called taxation. Unfortunately, my only way of alleviating some of that is by voting for someone else who may or may not tax me less (regardless of their campaign promises). Even more so, unlike the state, you see neither individual counterfeiting on a large scale nor individual bombing of other neighborhoods or nations.

While Milton Friedman was not an anarchist his point on politicians not being angels still rings true. To put it in other words as Milton and Bastiat did, are politicians angels or benevolent when they go into office? Are they not human? Don’t they pursue their own “greedy” and “evil” self-interest, the same as everyone else?  Why, then, do we expect that elected officials will be any more inclined to not abuse power than the men and women that the State is to protect us from?

Austrian Economist and historian Robert Higgs, also an anarcho-capitalist argues contrary to the likes of Madison, who is obviously influenced by the likes of Locke and Hobbes. Higgs, among other anarchists, would contend although a stateless society may not be perfect, that it is nowhere close to the amount of horrific acts carried out by the state.

People are bad so we need government made of people...

As Higgs puts it:

[…]Although I admit that the outcome in a stateless society will be bad, because not only are people not angels, but many of them are irredeemably vicious in the extreme, I conjecture that the outcome in a society under a state will be worse, indeed much worse, because, first, the most vicious people in society will tend to gain control of the state  and, second, by virtue of this control over the state’s powerful engines of death and destruction, they will wreak vastly more harm than they ever could have caused outside the state. It is unfortunate that some individuals commit crimes, but it is stunningly worse when such criminally inclined individuals wield state power.

Upon providing this counterargument many of us anarchists have dealt a trump card to the minarchist by revealing the circular logic of their argument, or at least causes them to stop and ponder. Yet even with this point raised some minarchists have a counter argument of their own. They claim by having the “right people” in power this will ensure that a) society won’t plunge into a Mad Max dystopia and b) the State doesn’t run amok. Basically, the idea is that if we have a plethora of anarchists or libertarians in office, what limited government libertarians fear will happen under anarchy and/or big government, won’t happen.

Ok, let’s think about that for a moment. Set aside the debate on how we reach a society where the state has a small-to-nonexistent role to play in our lives. Because our ends are somewhat the same, both sides of that argument can try and achieve them together. Instead, let’s look at this ideal minarchist society, once accomplished. Say we are living in Minarchistan. Similar to what our founders envisioned, we have a republic which is made up of politicians who are all similar to us. Each politician that we voted in has views congruent with our principles 100%. That is, they didn’t vote on bills we didn’t want, they didn’t spend taxes on things we didn’t want. Yet, if this person is a reflection of you and I, lined up with our ideals perfectly, then what is the difference with that person being in power and us governing ourselves? Aren’t they just doing what we would or wouldn’t be doing? Why don’t we just eliminate the middle man?

What makes it even more difficult is that since all individuals are not the same, politicians we vote in won’t be either.  Even most politicians that are labeled as libertarians aren’t the same. Even if these elected officials match up with the views of their consitutents about 50%, the other percentage is voting on bills or spending taxes on things we oppose. That’s not even including those citizens that wouldn’t be libertarians in this Minarchistan who would want their “Obamaphone” or foreign military intervention and would vote their guy in to ensure it happens, making it more difficult for Minarchistan to maintain its ideal limited government.

Having a monopoly, the State has all the power it could ever want, it just doesn’t dare increase its exercise of it too quickly, just incrementally. Even some minarchists have their own pet project they may want to keep, but it’s the same counterproductive thing going on and it all adds up to the State we have today after 300 million people each put in their pet program. As soon as you have an institution with the power to compel taxes, plus a constituency that think they benefit from the exercise of this power, it is recipe for an endless series of excuses to incrementally expand that power.

I will concede that educating others and ideas would have a large impact in ensuring that such a society is “defended.” As Benjamin Franklin is given credit for saying, the US was originally “[a] republic, if you can keep it.” However, I would suggest that this simply illustrates my argument. If we can keep the republic of Minarchistan as ideal as described above, that just takes us back to square one of why not just govern ourselves? We have all heard the point raised that we wouldn’t mind taxes if we can decide where those taxes are spent. This is analogous to what I am trying to convey. If we are able to choose where our taxes go, then that is an argument against taxation — we don’t need the tax compulsion in this case. If we are against where taxes are being spent, that is also an argument against taxation. If we could choose what tax dollars went toward, it would be more beneficial to keep the money and spend it on our own, versus a third party doing so for us; akin to not needing a politician to live our life either.

 The notion of reducing the State, be it outside the system or inside the system, is debated just as much, and I am sure many reading are tired of the incessant infighting, but the point is that you don’t hire people to run a country. The problem isn’t that the people in charge are unintelligent or corrupt — the problem is that there are people in charge. If there must be people in charge, it would be nice if they had a correct understanding of, say, economics, but if that were the case they’d just sit around all day “being in charge,” and there wouldn’t be anything to pay them for.

The State vs. “Government”, Leaders vs. Rulers, “Who Enforces Rules with No Rulers?”

Typically anarchists aren’t strictly for privatization, per se, as much as they are for privatization plus competition. That is, not just having one firm handle what the State currently does but numerous competing firms provide what the State had before; a proliferation of ideas which could be in principle and/or have been historically deployed by entrepreneurs to deal with the obvious problem that some people are willing to use violence to achieve their ends. One concern that minarchists will raise is if you have these firms and organizations that are doing what the state has usually done, isn’t that government? Essentially, we are replacing government with government, or the State, thus this is not anarchy.

I haven’t generally characterized the State as owners of their claimed territory, and neither have anarchist thinkers such as Hoppe or Rothbard, but I do think there’s something to this, so let’s explore the idea.

Rothbard has defined the state as a monopoly of force (within a given geographical area), as the state is now necessarily in charge of deciding what constitutes defensive versus aggressive force, and will of course consider all of its own violence to be defensive in nature, and that deployed by any would-be competitors (“vigilantes”) as aggressive and intolerable — a justification for “defensive” force to be used against them.

Hoppe has defined the State as a monopoly of “ultimate decision-making power” over a given area. This works too, because once you have a monopoly on defense, and on the definition thereof, you have exactly what Hoppe is describing here. The State will put itself in charge of resolving all disputes, including disputes arising between itself and its subjects. It will of course resolve those disputes in favor of itself, and it will find that it has incentives to provoke conflicts in order to resolve them in its own favor.

But let’s say we define the state as an entity which claims ownership of its ostensible territory. By virtue of its (inevitable, if not by-definition) assertion of final decision-making authority within the confines of its “property,” it acts as owner, claims the same rights as an owner, treats anyone found disobeying as a trespasser, and so on. So this definition works as well, I think, provided we note the distinction between claiming ownership and justifying it via homesteading and trade.

Organizations and businesses, even ones that would handle courts and police in a competitive manner, to be clear, do not fit the definition of “government” anarchists generally use,  or are opposed to, but technically what we’re opposed to is more properly “the State”, and not “government.” We’re opposed to aggression, so we’re obviously opposed to institutionalized aggression, but what we’re opposed to by definition is the State as defined above. The ambiguity of what it means to be “governed” is why I usually say I’m opposed to “the State” rather than “government.”  In other words, if it’s voluntary (really voluntary all the time, not pseudo-voluntary according to social contract theory or because you agreed to something in the past) what could I object to.

So these businesses are not a state or even a de facto state since there are multiple ones to choose from. Further, even if one could argue that one business will turn into a monopoly (which is extremely difficult to achieve without the state), they would lack the fawning consent of their victims if they succeeded and have no monopoly on the service of protecting people if they failed — in either case, their prospects are pretty grim.

A usual criticism of this from the minarchist is that government is the action or manner of controlling or regulating a nation, organization, or people. So, for instance, if you have these competing firms who have rules then you are still being governed. Or, since some people do and will steal (for example), they will disagree with the rules. As a result of this, supposedly, you will either govern them by forcing punishment on them, or you will ignore their infractions, which are themselves government of the victims. Either way, according to the minarchist — this isn’t anarchy. This objection is a good one, and although it is not as incorrect as other concerns raised, it is incorrect. This is because it still confuses governance (the enforcement of rules) with government or the State (a body that claims the exclusive authority on governance over some territory). One can have governance without government. It is not “government” if I expel a thief from my property.

Government” is not the action or manner of controlling or regulating a nation, organization, or people. No. “Governance” and “government” are different terms. Government refers to the specific, monopoly body, while governance refers to the act of setting and enforcing rules. Governance refers to “all processes of governing, whether undertaken by a government, market or network, whether over a family, tribe, formal or informal organization or territory and whether through laws, norms, power or language.” Government, note here, is simply a single form of providing governance.

 On top of that, the dictionary definition of government is “THE governing body of a nation, state, or community”. As in one. Single. Monopoly. The State.

Market anarchy does not have a governing body, but it does have governance. These are not the same things.

“Ok, ok, Mr. Anarchist. What about rulers? Anarchy is meant to be without rulers, right? At your job you are ruled, does this not negate anarchism in your ideal society?”

Like the “State” and “government”, or “government” and “governance” there is a difference between a “leader” and a “ruler”, or at least there has to be in order to have a meaningful conversation. A “leader” is on that long list of words where people making typically invalid points constantly exploit its rather ambiguous meaning. I can follow a leader, or not, or choose from among available leaders or none at all. I can do what he says when I think he’s right and feel up to it, and toss his advice otherwise without consequence to what I already own. These things aren’t true with rulers, who can have me punished for failing to obey.

A “leader” is anyone whose instructions or example is followed voluntarily for some reason – pursuit of a shared goal, admiration, whatever it might be. If I had a boss, he’d be my leader on the grounds that the nature of our relationship is that he coordinates the efforts of others toward the realization of a shared goal. So, to put it this way,  if you are contracted to do work, you could consider your clients as leaders – You’d follow their instructions because their role is to define the goal you are both working toward. For them, you’re also a leader as you’d be more competent to make certain kinds of decisions than they are, so they listen to your advice.  This is why they have hired you.

A “ruler” is someone who is capable of arranging or executing physical punishment for anyone who disobeys, and the term implies a broad scope — not a mugger, for example. And since we’re talking about States, it’s probably helpful to narrow the definition a bit further to say that a ruler enjoys a monopoly or cartel status as such — it’s only occasionally and briefly, as part of a transition, that we see rulers not part of the same “regime” both establishing their own contradictory rules for the region over which they’ve established their authority — regions don’t generally overlap.

“Ok, Mr. Anarchist Guy, if there are no rulers, who enforces the rules? Wouldn’t people have to be elected to some form of government in order to enforce the rules/laws, too, thus no anarchy?”

This is also a valid question. Take for instance the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) — that is a rule. Now, not all anarchists believe in it as some are consequentialists and some are nihilists, but I’ll use it as an example. It would literally be impossible to build a legal system with the explicit goal of enforcing it. The observation is that everybody, or most people, will want it enforced with respect to themselves — they don’t want to be aggressed against. (By definition, if they desire some violence to be done against them — for instance, in a boxing match — this is not aggression.) They will therefore demand, and the market will supply, protections against those aggressions. The ethical rule is totally independent from any legal system, except as a standard by which a legal system can be judged.

So, again, the observation is that a market legal system would tend to uphold the NAP, in that it would penalize aggression (without that being its goal). I have rules such as “you don’t get to punch me in the face and steal my stuff” — that doesn’t make me your ruler. On a broader scope, anarchists think markets would produce a legal system that protects me against those things without necessarily writing down and enforcing a bunch of rigid rules — it satisfies my demand for protection, and since most people want to be protected, rules emerge, such as “you don’t get to take people’s stuff.”

There are rules that most people will follow without even being asked. We know this because if it were not true, no amount of police officers would be able to prevent the chaos. The rule everybody wants for themselves, but many (all statists) want others to not have is: complete control over their own decisions and body, and an absence of threats placed against them. People want this rule, in the most practical sense. They are just convinced everybody else can’t be trusted with it. If somebody disagrees with rules such as “don’t kill” or “don’t steal,” while most others will agree with these rules, he inevitably will face consequences from these protection agencies and people that want the rules followed.

The NAP is typically held to not be man-made, but that’s kind of irrelevant. The idea is that people “ought” not to aggress against each other. Call that a rule if you like, but it’s very different from the rules you’re familiar with, in that there is not and could never be a single person or group charged with enforcing it. It’s an ethical rule, not a legal one.

Thus, the observation is an economic one: the rule would tend to be enforced quite accidentally, as in emergent order, by people’s demand to have their stuff and their person secure against aggression and the provision of a supply to satisfy that demand — not by building some institution charged with deliberately enforcing the rule.

As this site has argued elsewhere, “When one goes to the grocery store, they don’t pay because the alternative is getting arrested. They pay because they believe stealing is wrong! This is the same reason they don’t assault their neighbor — not because they will be thrown in jail for it, but because they believe it to be immoral. Were all of society to be possessed of violent and aggressive motivations held in check only by the threat of punishment, a small cadre of law enforcement would be utterly unable to maintain order. They would simply be overwhelmed. Society stays civil and peaceful not because of the threat of violent state response, but because of generally accepted moral sentiments.”

“Voluntary Minarchy”

I have many friends that are limited government libertarians. Some I have persuaded into becoming anarchists themselves. This is something I am rather proud of. Versus yelling “statist!” and “purist” back and forth, explaining anarchism in a method such as I am doing here has proven quite successful. Some of those minarchists are resilient (in that they have not yet been persuaded to become an anarchist). One of those “resilient” reasons that they have not turned from the state, to sum up, is that they are “philosophically anarchist.” Since having heard this expression I have come across a few explanations but the key definition that I will be addressing is that in their ideal “classical liberal” society, the government would be a voluntary government.

 This is probably one of my favorite arguments. Not favorite as in “Hahaha silly statists, that is an oxymoron,” but favorite because my argument against it has probably had the most successful impact with such advocates. The gist of this position is that in this voluntary classical liberal society you would have services such as courts, police, and military which the state has a monopoly on but you can opt in or out of.

Now at this time I invoke Molyneux’s “Against Me” argument. To be frank, I have not listened to Molyneux except for three videos, including this one, but I am for ideas and propositions, not necessarily who gave such propositions. In light of that, I have found my adaptation of this argument to go over quite well.

Once again we are back to Minarchistan (or Classical Liberalstan, depending on preference), and say for the sake of argument that its government is a voluntary one. Now say I am an individual living in this society and I want to voluntarily opt out, would I be able to do so without coercion or threat of force? Also, would I be able to set up my own firms that can compete with the government’s? For instance, I don’t want to pay to use the government’s services thus I establish my own where consumers can choose to go with mine or back to the government’s if desired. Would I be allowed to do this? 

Not always, but most of the time the answer to these questions are typically yes. The reason is that libertarians are usually for competition as they recognize that competition improves quality and provides lower prices for consumers. Additionally, libertarians are usually against coercion. Unlike neocons and liberals, libertarians aren’t typically for coercing others to the will of their preferences such as welfare or the war on drugs, although minarchists will usually say that if you don’t pay, you can’t use the state-funded services.

Nevertheless, if you are speaking to a minarchist and they answered yes to these questions, this is actually closer to a stateless society; anarchism. I will explain. If it’s a state, then by any sane definition of the word it’s not voluntary. If you can withhold your tax dollars and forego that “state’s” legal services as a consequence, it’s not a state — it’s no different from any other service you voluntarily agreed to on the market. If I opt out of these services, I am aware of what comes with not paying for a service. “Voluntarily-funded state” is a self-contradiction. If I don’t have to pay taxes, I can pay one of many private firms to protect my rights instead, or I can choose to do so myself, then you have anarchism. If a monopoly on force is imposed, “voluntary” provision of the service goes out the window, and as a result its funding wouldn’t be voluntary for long either. If government is not coercive, minarchists have anarchism.

You cannot have a monopoly on law without forcing competitors to stop competing. Thus, the State must, at a minimum, coerce people to use the State as the monopoly provider, because otherwise the state is like any other business; competing for consumers with no obligation to use the States. Taxation is always coercion, and monopoly is always the banning of competition. The nature of imposing a monopoly and then not allowing “free riders” mandates this. Otherwise, I refuse to pay, and I refuse to allow you to override my natural rights to free association, including my right to defend myself and form an organization to do so. The result if you allow this? A stateless society. If you do not allow it? A coercive state funded by taxation.

This is crucial. It is usually at this point where the minarchist will ask, “Ok then, how will X, Y and Z work?” Unfortunately that will need to wait for a future time, in the meantime many anarchists have theorized and written on how such things “could” work. The important thing is that, hopefully, a seed has been planted. Like I said before, I want those individuals to be shown the path. I don’t want to be hostile and say minarchists are hypocritical. I do find minarchism to be contradictory, but having contradictions isn’t necessarily something that should be condemned — only corrected.  I am here to make allies.

What if We Are Invaded?

This argument is usually the one that is the most difficult. Ask any anarchist, even prominent ones, and national defense is usually the toughest sell on anarchism. This is for a good reason. Everyone, myself included, wants to be safe from invaders. I don’t want China coming in and taking us over. It is because of this reason that minarchists argue that a state is necessary to ensure the “bad guys” don’t come and take us over. It was also the reason for my support of minarchism before I became an anarchist myself too. If one takes time and shows interest in finding out how a stateless society could function, at least when it comes to defense, no doubt they will come across such anarchists as David FriedmanRobert Murphy, and Hans-Hermann Hoppe. Even if their arguments don’t convince you, at least you will know how certain things could theoretically work to defend from invasion without the State.

 

When it comes to discussing a stateless society and who or what would protect us from other nations, we could spend hours discussing and breaking down how we could ensure our safety. Just as with what I have written so far, I will be trying to address this subject differently. So say we are living in Ancapistan, we have no state, and thus no “national defense.” This being the case, what is to prevent China or Russia from invading us? This argument will stop many anarchists in their tracks who have not spent hours on their own studying and contemplating the issue, and even if they have, there may be some doubt. Surely, since this is a difficult question it means that a national defense, ergo, a state is necessary, right?

I disagree. And as I have stated, this was the last thing I was stuck on before becoming an anarchist. However, a question I would pose to the minarchist (or what I would suggest the anarchist to ask) is that what is to ensure China or Russia doesn’t invade

Minarchistan? If we were to have a limited government, thus a smaller military, what is to stop one of those nations with a bigger military coming over and kicking our Minarchistani military’s ass? Throughout history, smaller nations have fallen under the whims of nations that had bigger militaries, such as Poland which fell to Nazi Germany, or any of the campaigns under the British Empire. By that logic, wouldn’t we need to have a super duper military to ensure that never happens?

How do you reconcile a big military with a limited government? Note that in times of crises that the State has used aiding the military as a justification to intervene elsewhere, such as during WWII (war time rationing, internment camps), or in other periods, the TSA and the Patriot Act, the Alien and Sedition Acts, or the Espionage Acts.

What is to stop the State from abusing its power and legislating rules regarding those things? One could argue that in Minarchistan that if we have the right people in power this wouldn’t happen, but now we are back to the discussion we had earlier in this article. Moreover, if we as libertarians oppose the consensus imposing their preferences on us via taxation, are we any better when we would just as easily do the same?

To be fair, when we enter into this line of questioning and debate, minarchists contend that we don’t necessarily need a big military but a strong national defense. This makes sense. Similar to how Ron Paul distinguished between “military spending” and “defense spending.” Yet I would counter that “strong national defense” is not only an arbitrary term which means something different to each person, but also that military superiority does not guarantee “victory” in a war.

If that was the case countries like Afghanistan would have been conquered numerous times, the U.S. would have won in Vietnam, and so on. It could be argued that we would still been under British rule if military superiority was a guarantee of victory. Now, admittedly, that can be seen as simplistic, but the point is that there is never any assurance that we will be 100% safe. The only real promise is that we give up freedom by having a large State to ensure that never happens. And this means that minarchism is no longer the goal.

I am not coming from a position that since we will never have assurance, we may as well just throw the baby out with the bathwater, not at all. There is the saying, “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.” While the quote’s legitimacy is up for debate, it nonetheless illustrates my point, at least one of them, which is not depending on the state and returning to self-sovereignty.

The States Legitimacy

The one thing that I think plays a large if not definitive factor on the existence of the State is that people believe the State is necessary. This is through centuries of indoctrination. Even when argued that private businesses or individuals violate rights, two major distinctions between them and the state remain: First, that these rights-violating entities don’t pretend that they’re doing it for your own good (Spooner’s the State versus the Highwayman); and second, the scale and persistence with which they do so is minuscule in comparison to the state. This is not to deny their evil, rather simply to point out that the state out-competes all forms of violence known to man.

 As Rothbard states:

“There is another vital consideration that would make it almost impossible for an outlaw police force to commit anything like the banditry that modern governments practice. One of the crucial factors that permits governments to do the monstrous things they habitually do is the sense of legitimacy on the part of the stupefied public. The average citizen may not like — may even strongly object to — the policies and exactions of his government. But he has been imbued with the idea — carefully indoctrinated by centuries of governmental propaganda — that the government is his legitimate sovereign, and that it would be wicked or mad to refuse to obey its dictates. It is this sense of legitimacy that the State’s intellectuals have fostered over the ages, aided and abetted by all the trappings of legitimacy: flags, rituals, ceremonies, awards, constitutions, etc. A bandit gang — even if all the police forces conspired together into one vast gang — could never command such legitimacy. The public would consider them purely bandits; their extortions and tributes would never be considered legitimate though onerous “taxes,” to be paid automatically. The public would quickly resist these illegitimate demands and the bandits would be resisted and overthrown. Once the public had tasted the joys, prosperity, freedom, and efficiency of a libertarian, State-less society, it would be almost impossible for a State to fasten itself upon them once again. Once freedom has been fully enjoyed, it is no easy task to force people to give it up.”

rothbard

Humans subjectively choose their ends, and then employ reason — an error-prone process — to select the means most suitable for the attainment of those ends. In this pursuit, humans err in supporting government as something they erroneously believe serves this purpose for them. All they need to do is learn otherwise. There’s no puzzle at all here — humans “perceive,” or rather have incorrectly surmised, that they are better off with the state than without it.  I suspect I speak for many individuals (and all anarchists) when I suggest that most people have erred in their selection of the state as a suitable means to such ends as protection of person and property, protection of the poor and weak, etc.

One could ask, if the State is so bad, why do we have a State and everything it entails? Well, I don’t think it is necessary to explain the flaws of democracy or the majority over the minority to a libertarian, but this is like asking in 1825 “Well, if every human being has a right to live freely, then why do we have slaves and everything that slavery entails?” Yes, some individuals created the government and then imposed it upon other individuals, just like some individuals decided upon slavery and then forced others into it. And I know what you are thinking, comparing taxes and the State to slavery is extreme or on the fringe. Or, “minarchism is nowhere close to slavery.” Sure, I will concede that. I would be better off under a minarchist society as compared with our standards today. Nonetheless, I must ask, does the choice between a group who lashes you 50 times and one that lashes you 100 times make you free?

The whole thing is based on coercion. Sure, your conditions may be more tolerable or less tolerable, but that was true of chattel slavery as well. Same thing with government — you’re forced to pay taxes or you get thrown in a cage. And, you may not opt out of any of the state’s pronouncements, since, to be said to actually opt out would mean being legally able to keep your money away from projects you disagree with (e.g., funding the military). But we all know that this is not the case. Slavery is a kind of quality — one does not keep all the fruits of one’s labor to be disposed of as one sees fit. In this case, we are speaking of degrees, not of different qualities.

 The condition the slaves were in was quite poor, but few people today would defend slavery had it simply been “kinder” and “gentler.” The difference between enslavement that results from the State and that which results from slavery is only in severity, but they’re predicated on the idea that you are not, in every possible way, your own.

I also do realize that the state has been around a long time. Therefore, this must legitimize the state, right? I disagree. This argument is hardly a valid argument — it only acknowledges that it has been around for a long period. Not in any way does a long tradition legitimize the existence of something. The same can be said about slavery, that it existed for long periods of time, therefore it must be justified. This is only an appeal to tradition.

 Why people follow leaders seems elementary to me, hardly worth discussing. Why they obey rulers, when they do, is maybe a little more complex. If I keep my eye on the speedometer, it’s only to avoid punishment — otherwise I know from my non-speedometer surroundings whether or not I’m driving at a safe speed. And I think this is the case for most people — there are rules they object to, which they follow only to avoid punishment, and rules they don’t, which they would (mostly) follow even without the threat of punishment.

But I think the really important distinction is that most people believe there absolutely must be rulers, because (erroneous logic here) without them there could not be rules, without which a Hobbesian dystopia seems like the inevitable result. That is, they “want” to obey rulers, but not because they want to be ruled. Rather, they just see them as the necessary and acceptable price they pay to ensure that everyone else has to live by rules that make themselves feel safe. Or in other words, Joe Statist doesn’t want to be ruled, he’s just scared shitless of what will happen if you aren’t ruled, and being ruled himself is the inevitable price of that security.

Ultimately the point, then, is that these people are factually mistaken about the necessity of rulers for the maintenance of order, and that as long as most people suffer from this delusion, rulers are inevitable (their erroneous beliefs constitute a demand for which there will always be a supply); and that if this error were to be mass-corrected, the demand would evaporate and there would be no possibility of rulers.

This is not surprising, especially given the ubiquity of the state and the general state of mainstream economics, but (speaking for myself now) it’s my aim to contribute to the correction of those errors in people’s minds.

In Closing…

I don’t assume perfect knowledge. That is, I think, a tenet of being an anarchist. I don’t know what is best for you, and by that same rationale, I don’t think politicians do either. One thing I think libertarians take pride in, or they should, is how open-minded they are, plus how much dedication they put into finding out more about libertarian concepts. But I also ask those reading who are not anarchists, why stop there? How many times has an advocate of big government asked about your position only to get it completely wrong? With that in mind I would urge you to keep learning and keep digging. Of course, not everyone will be converted by reading this. I would even wager that many minarchists reading may remain that way for the rest of their lives, but I at least hope that they will have a better understanding of all this via approaches different from those they are accustomed to and may gain an anarchist friend or two along the way.

I would ask you to remember two things: First, anarchy is not a utopia. No anarchist believes it would be, and speaking as an anarchist, if you come across one who says that it is utopia I would suggest you to be skeptical of him/her as one. Having laws against murder doesn’t imply the utopian belief that murder will be eradicated by such a law, only that it’s good to attempt to reduce it as much as possible. In the same way anarchism doesn’t posit that aggression will be eliminated, only that it would be reduced as much as possible.  Anarchists know that we won’t achieve utopia, nor that getting rid of government will create overnight prosperity, but we simply believe that no matter what the given situation is, inserting a coercive and controlling body of elites into the mix, things will only get worse. I think this can make sense to some minarchists because they already believe that in nearly every industry, but they often hold to government for things they feel should be mandated.

Second,  no anarchists, at least none that I know, think that a stateless society will be achieved overnight, or any time soon. Now, this may be a reason that you, the limited-government libertarian, are not an anarchist. Or to paraphrase the statement, “Anarchy will never happen in our lifetime, thus I am not an anarchist/will settle for limited government.” That is hard to argue with. Most anarchists know anarchy may not happen in our life time, but I still challenge this position nonetheless. That is, why is this exclusive to anarchism? By that same logic would it not make sense to be a statist? My contention is that this applies to a limited government too.  The reason is that it could just as easily be said that limited government may not happen in our lifetime either. Of course we should attempt to achieve for less government, and it may be easier to accomplish as well. However, since it may not happen, shouldn’t we just settle for what we have now since it would be too difficult to reach limited government? This argument applies to literally any goal; “Eliminating poverty might not happen in my lifetime, so why bother helping the poor. Restoring eyesight to the blind might not happen in my lifetime, so why bother investing in medical tech for that”, and so on.

In the spirit of humility, I may be wrong about anarchism. Maybe some reading are determined that, despite everything I said, that perhaps you want to rule over others yourself?  If what I have discussed has made no impact whatsoever I would just suggest you to eliminate the middle man and try to establish rule over other individuals. Most people are uncomfortable with this and won’t do it, so why appoint others?  Perhaps if we achieve a stateless society another state would rise up again. I would urge you to think on this though. The worst possible scenario for anarchy is the creation of a state or an invasion from another one. In either case, it is the State going about hurting people, not anarchists. And if you are worried about states forming and attacking, it means that you may have some underlying concerns about the State itself. Nonetheless, I always say that it is good to strive for a world without murder, theft, and rampant criminality. We know we can never achieve that but in order to head in the right direction, we need a vision of what is right. Or, again, as Rothbard said, and to conclude:

But suppose — just suppose  that despite all these handicaps and obstacles, despite the love for their new-found freedom, despite the inherent checks and balances of the free market, suppose anyway that the State manages to reestablish itself. What then? Well, then, all that would have happened is that we would have a State once again. We would be no worse off than we are now, with our current State. And, as one libertarian philosopher has put it, “at least the world will have had a glorious holiday.” Karl Marx’s ringing promise applies far more to a libertarian society than to communism: In trying freedom, in abolishing the State, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

Jeff Peterson II

We the Individuals

 

*Or is he?

 

 

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I encourage all readers who have not crossed the threshold into anarchism to follow the links through out this piece to read and listen to some of the arguments posed. All of them have been influential in my progression and no doubt may have an impact on you as well.