Missouri River Morality

If you explain to people why the state is a fundamentally immoral institution — among other things, it relies on extorted and stolen funds, gained by threats of violence, for its very existence and nearly every action it takes — and therefore conclude that it ought to be abolished, people will object that alternative institutions might not work, that is, might not supply certain goods and services (e.g., protection of person and property) that the people want.

So, in effect, what these default-statists are saying is that they do not care about morality, that unless someone can guarantee them that certain things they want will definitely be supplied to them in an alternative, just system, they prefer to stick with the intrinsically criminal system. This is Missouri River morality, a mile wide and an inch deep, and consequentialism at its worst.

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Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute and Editor at Large of the Institute’s quarterly journal The Independent Review. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University, and he has taught at the University of Washington, Lafayette College, Seattle University, the University of Economics, Prague, and George Mason University. He has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University and Stanford University, and a fellow at the Hoover Institution and the National Science Foundation.