America Proved Minarchism is a Myth

It is beyond any measure of denial to assert that the American experiment in “limited government” – “constitutional” or otherwise – has proven itself an abject failure. The US government is the largest, most expensive, and most powerful cabal on the planet. And it shows no signs of reversing course.

But for the true believers in minarchism, it gets even worse. Consider the original idea behind the “United States”: A loosely confederated group of smaller sovereign governmental entities – all more or less modelled after the overarching federal one, each with a constitution and bill of rights. There are currently 50 of them, in addition to the special federal District of Columbia. Plus two overseas commonwealths, and three semi-autonomous territories.

Notwithstanding a few uninhabited islands and sandbars dotting the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean that the US federal government lays claim to, that equals not just one, but 57 separate experiments in “limited government.” We could also include all various municipalities contained therein too – counties, cities, towns – and then we’d be talking “limited” governmental experiments almost beyond number.

In zero of these cases have governments remained constrained by the pieces of paper ostensibly designed to do so. This is not to say that residing within one of the more egregious cases – such as Commiefornia, New York, or Marxachusetts – is entirely equivalent to living in South Dakota, Alaska, or Wyoming. Only that none of them have refrained from or been immune to their endemic nature: Growth. They have each of them expanded in scope and power over time – and continue to do so. Never contracting or downsizing. And ever at the expense of the individual.

You might, as a dedicated government apologist, try to excuse one, or two, or even half a dozen such failures as unfortunate anomalies plagued by corrupt politicians and judges. Maybe. If you wanted to be charitable. If you were stretching to clutch at straws in a desperate defense of the idea known as political governance.

But 57? Or the countless thousands and thousands of lesser subdivisions within those examples?

If the greater federal historical example of America does not dispel the minarchist “limited government” myth for the fantasy that it is, then all of the smaller examples under its very own rubric surely do.

“Small government” has never worked out. And it never will.

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Gun Policy Costs, Equality and Property Rights, & Minarchism (26m) – Editor’s Break 094

Editor’s Break 094 has Skyler giving his commentary on the following topics: whether homicides, suicides, et cetera, are a valid consideration for the costs of liberal gun policy; the achievement of wealth inequality in a society where property rights are secure; the status of minarchism, or minimal statism, as a libertarian political philosophy; and more.

Listen to Editor’s Break 094 (26m, mp3, 64kbps)

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Words Poorly Used #127 — Secrecy, Security, Privacy

  • Does secrecy mean security?  Does secrecy mean privacy?
  • Does security mean secrecy?  Does security mean privacy?
  • Does privacy mean secrecy?  Does privacy mean security?

These three words, secrecy, security, and privacy, are thrown about, often with an intent to imply relationship among them.  But none of them actually imply the others or any combination of the others.  The critical element for each is whether they are legitimate provinces of the state, and in the hands of the state, are they appropriately administered.  Let’s look at each as a standalone entity.

Is secrecy a legitimate function of the state?  Not in and of itself.  There may be some very limited set of state functionality where secrecy is justified.  The problem here is finding some set of state functions that are justified.  But this is the unsolvable argument between minarchism and anarchism.  If cases can be made for the former — very specific cases — then it is permissable to begin a discussion about secrecy.  There are no cases for the latter, since anarchism exists.

Is security a legitimate function of the state?  But the state cannot possibly have enough functionaries to provide security.  We may very well say that everyone needs security, but they can only be guaranteed that which they can provide to themselves, each individually.  In the US, we have about 320 million people in need of security.  We have, generously speaking, 3 million federal employees.  If each of them were 100% responsible for security, that means that each has responsibility for the well-being of 106,666,667 inhabitants, 24/7/365.  That is impossible on its face.  Any justification of government as a provider of security is a pig in a poke.

Is privacy something that government can guarantee to its constituents?  Government would have to quit their wholesale invasions of privacy first, but that is not in the physical makeup of the state.

Government needs all three to survive.  We, the people, do not — at least involuntarily via a fictional state.

The government compounds and confounds these three in a mishmash a trois, just like steakhouses sell sizzle — smoke and mirrors, pomp and circumstance.  Ask yourself, why does a POTUS desperately in need of public approval now insist that the Pentagon put on a parade for him.

— Kilgore Forelle

 

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Voluntary Law and Order

People are not all the same, and they make different choices because they have different values, circumstances, and levels of understanding. Sometimes those choices are peaceful and wise; sometimes they are not.

So what are the best ways to promote good choices and cooperation while preventing and providing resolution for conflict?

In answering such questions, it is important to recognize that there are unavoidable limitations. The idea of a perfect society where there is no conflict and all outcomes are equal is an absurd utopian fantasy, and so is the idea of a deus ex machina that can magically swoop in to make everything right. Imperfect knowledge and ability, conflicting interests, transaction costs, and other collective action problems will always be barriers to a perfectly peaceful and productive society.

In economic terms, there are markets for law and order just like there are markets for food and clothing. They are composed of scarce goods whose supply is in demand and which must be allocated among competing uses. Economic analysis of governance mechanisms offers tremendous insights, not least of all because it accounts for the crucial impact of incentives and constraints on human behavior.

History and reason show that private governance does an excellent job of protecting property rights and facilitating peaceful exchange. They also show that government interference distorts and obstructs justice.

Principles of Justice

Justice is the preservation and restoration of rights under natural law, and is required for peace and harmony in society. Justice is also the foundation upon which mercy and charity must be built. Victims may choose to grant mercy to violators to appease the demands of justice, but denying justice to victims leads to perpetual conflict and misery.

True justice is based on protection and restitution, not revenge. Two wrongs can’t make a right. Retaliation tends to escalate conflict and waste resources, often at the expense of victims. Restitution compensates victims, eliminates desires for revenge, and provides contrite offenders with a path to redemption.

Violations of natural law are always violations of property rights. This is obvious with typical property crimes like theft, but even your life and liberty are based on self-ownership. This underscores the importance of clear property rights because without them, there is no basis for victimhood or restitution. No property, no victim. No victim, no violation.

Rights violations in a free society would be treated as torts. Many offenses currently considered “crimes” would still be illegal, but compulsory puritanism would be unlikely. Proponents of victimless crime laws (e.g. laws against drug use or prostitution) are rarely willing to bear the costs of enforcing them.

Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property. Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another. Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness. Unlike crimes, they imply no malice toward others, and no interference with their persons or property.
Lysander Spooner

Read the entire essay at LivingVoluntary.com.

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Moderation Can Be Vicious

Compromise is often a good thing; it’s often useful to meet people halfway on something so everyone can at least be content enough to settle some disagreement and not fight anymore. And when someone shows no ability or willingness to bend at all, he will often be seen as hard-headed, stubborn, even extreme.

However, the idea that compromise and “moderation” are always automatically good things is completely bogus. (A lot of you can probably guess what I’m going to say next.) When it comes to freedom versus statism, there can be no compromise. “Slavery lite” is still slavery. “Minarchism” is still advocating a coercive ruling class (that’s what the “arch” in the word means: ruler).

And there’s a reason that compromising on such things for the sake of “getting along,” or to avoid “infighting,” is logically ridiculous. Any amount of authoritarianism is, by definition, not “getting along.” It is fighting. It is violence. To accept a certain level of state aggression, in the name of “peacefully coexisting” with minarchists, is not only unprincipled; it is logically stupid. To accept that people should be violently dominated, to a supposedly “moderate” or “reasonable” degree, is, by its very nature, the opposite of peaceful coexistence.

So no, anarchists cannot, and should not, try to compromise or “get along” with statists, for the simple reason that every single statist in the world condones the initiation of violence against others. Thinking that compromising and being polite to such people, and letting them have “just a little bit of government,” is going to result in peace and harmony is a little like telling a mass murderer, “Well, I disagree with your viewpoint and what you condone and do, but let’s just agree to disagree, and we’ll get along fine.” No, we won’t.

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Voluntaryism among Other Philosophies

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“One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” is an original column appearing most Mondays at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here.

Voluntaryism is the philosophy based on the voluntary principle, that all human relations should happen voluntarily or not at all. In my opinion, this principle, like all principles, is only valid when its adoption creates a self-imposed obligation on how one should behave toward other humans. As a voluntaryist then, my primary commitment is to voluntary human relations, meaning, all other considerations like acceptable property norms or the justified use of force are secondary. Here I want to examine a few other philosophies that have attracted me – libertarianism, anarchism, nihilism, stoicism – as they relate to voluntaryism.

Libertarianism

One view of libertarianism is that it’s the philosophy of liberty. If one values and prefers being “free from restraint” by others, one may be properly labeled a libertarian. However, libertarians come in all sorts of flavors. While they all seem to be committed to the principles of self-ownership (everyone owns their own body) and non-aggression (the initiation of aggression against others is wrong), where that takes them logically varies.

At the highest level we have two camps: minarchist libertarians (limited government/state) and anarchist libertarians (no government/state). Among minarchists we find Objectivists (of Ayn Rand persuasion), Constitutionalists, and Geolibertarians (of Henry George persuasion). There are, however, budding strands of Objectivism and Georgism within anarchism. Among anarchists we find, among many others, voluntaryists, anarcho-capitalists, left anarchists, mutualists, and agorists.

In general, libertarianism is not opposed to participation in electoral politics, or in political voting. There are libertarian political action committees, institutions of policy analysis, and even an organized and registered Libertarian Party. Voluntaryism, in contrast, is opposed to participation in electoral politics and in political voting. Each is an attempt at control over others either directly, if one is running for office, or indirectly. The abstention from participating in electoral politics is the only compatible position with the voluntary principle. While my views would qualify me as a libertarian, my commitment to the voluntary principle pushes me away from minarchism and political participation.

Anarchism

Anarchy means simply “without rulers”, but what qualifies somebody as a ruler is more complicated. In my opinion, rulers are initiators of coercion (the use of force or threats). Unfortunately, this too begs the question. When is an act considered an initiation of coercion? If I take your wallet from your pocket, I have initiated coercion. If I take my wallet from your pocket, I have not. The difference is in who has title, ownership, of the wallet. Herein lies a significant division among anarchists.

The belief in what constitutes a valid claim of ownership (exclusive right of control) over resources (movable and immovable, ie. land, bodies of water) varies greatly within anarchist thought. Left anarchists (socialists, communists, syndicalists, et cetera) generally hold to an occupancy and use property norm. You must continually occupy and use a given resource if you are to maintain title to it. As such, absentee ownership (of factories, houseing, et cetera) is considered invalid. To use force to secure absentee ownership is an initiation of coercion, and so is incompatible with anarchist principles. Likewise for all forms of hierarchy (misnomer for echelons of authority) that set up wage labor and unequal bargaining power.

In contrast, right anarchists (capitalists, objectivists, agorists) generally hold to an original appropriation property norm. As long as you appropriate (put to some use out of a state of nature) or trade for resources, you maintain title until you abandon, gift, or trade it away. There is no limit to how much property one may legitimately own, as under right anarchism occupancy is not required in order to maintain title. To use force to take over property that belongs to an absentee owner is considered an initiation of coercion, and so is incompatible with anarchist principles.

Everyday you can find philosophical battles between left and right anarchists all over the Internet. I participate in them all the time. They are often fun and enlightening. Where does voluntaryism fit? I would say that voluntaryists hold the moral and philosophical high grounds over both left and right anarchists. It doesn’t matter which property norm one adopts so long as he’s committed to relating voluntarily with others. This means that the further away from his person the property in dispute sits, the less likely he’ll be to use violence. The voluntaryist isn’t interested in taking over either the right’s or the left’s property. He tends to his own affairs, to negotiating and contracting with those around him to secure his property, whatever norm it falls under. If a dispute arises, he takes it before the rest of society before committing to the use of violence. My views likewise qualify me as an anarchist, leaning to the right, but my commitment to the voluntary principle keeps me away from resorting to violence over property norms.

Nihilism

Leaving the realm of political philosophy for the remainder of this essay, our first stop is the ever-maligned nihilism. “Everything is meaningless!” seems to be the nihilist battle cry, which makes it easy to understand why so many people criticize it, because people do find meaning in things, starting with their own lives. Full disclosure: my understanding of nihilism is quite limited, but what I do understand appeals to me. I’ve heard nihilism defended simply by incessantly asking “why?” to every answer given on a question of meaning. Sooner or later, what is revealed is that something has meaning only because it’s been assigned by someone, either themselves, or a higher power. That assignment is based on values, which are subjectively determined by each and every being. Outside of subjectively determined values and assignment of meaning, there is none. What remains is like an empty universe.

Moral nihilism is nihilism applied to ethics. A moral nihilist would say, “Nothing is inherently moral or immoral.” My difficulty with moral nihilism is that I consider it oxymoronic. To me, morality is not whatever people think (subjectively) it is, rather its an objective determination of moral or immoral as proper or improper behavior for people in society. Murder is immoral because it’s improper for a person to engage in if he is to maintain society (community and fraternity) with other people. Likewise for theft, battery, rape, coercion, dishonesty, being a jerk, et cetera. Of course others don’t agree on how I define morality (which is objectively based on the meaning of the Latin moralis, its root word), but at some level the meanings of words, queue nihilism, are assigned by users, not the universe. In which case, “moral nihilism” is as meaningless as I consider it to be oxymoronic. What does any of this have to do with voluntaryism?

If value is subjectively determined and meaning assigned, then neither is being forced on us by others. It is true that we could get ourselves into some trouble if we don’t recognize the value and meaning of things to others, and learn to respect that, but otherwise what we value and the meaning we find in things, beginning with our lives, is up to us. The freer we are from restraint or coercion by others – the more we are living voluntarily – the better able we are to express our values in the ways and toward the things that we personally find meaningful. In other words, when we aren’t told what to value or the meanings of things, we are allowed to figure those out for ourselves. In my opinion, when value and meaning are voluntarily discovered and assigned, we are more likely to live fully human.

Stoicism

My understanding of stoicism is likewise limited, but like nihilism, what I understand appeals to me. In my own summary, stoicism is the practice of placing the mind as master over the heart, and in living virtuously (morally) in order to find outer peace, inner tranquility, and happiness. Placing the mind as master over the heart does not mean that the stoic should suppress his emotions, on the contrary, he should feel them completely and allow them to run their course (beginning, middle, and end) but to do so in a way that does not jeopardize his commitment to behaving virtuously toward others or toward himself. The stoic recognizes and accepts that we are emotional beings and that our emotions are the result of eons of evolution, which means they were and are necessary for our survival on some level. But as we are emotional beings, we are also intelligent beings.

In practice, stoicism places the individual as the highest authority in his life. The supreme law of the individual is his conscience. The stoic, because he values and finds meaning in it, will study virtue and allow the principles that he adopts to guide his behavior. When someone else comes along and tries to control him, to coerce him, the stoic won’t be fooled into believing that his attacker has any right to do as he’s doing. How the stoic reacts is a matter of clear-headed and passion-motivated wisdom, from a sense of duty to himself and his valued loved ones, instead of from a sense of duty to his attacker or his attacker’s false and platitude-based authority.

Like the stoic, the voluntaryist likewise recognizes no authority in his life above himself. The voluntary principle is foundational to living virtuously. For both the stoic and the voluntaryist, the initiation of coercion toward other humans is wrong (unjust, dishonest, immoral). I would say that to be a stoic is to be a voluntaryist (though not necessarily vice versa). I am a voluntaryist working on becoming a better stoic.

Final Thoughts

Philosophy is amazing, isn’t it? Though I am primarily a voluntaryist, I also identify as a libertarian, an anarchist, an apprehensive nihilist, and a budding stoic. Each of these have value and meaning to me, so I’ve freely chosen to practice them. What more can I say? Other than recommending that you give each of these your full weight of intellectual inquiry. What a different, better, world it would be if it were full of voluntaryists, nihilists, and stoics. One can only imagine.


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