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I tried to search for this topic, but either I am not familiar with the search function or it just wasn't able to come up with one.

I'm curious about what the objectivist position is on anarcho-capitalism of the Rothbardian type. I consider myself an objectivist, but I am also in the process right now of reading more and trying to fully understand the position of anarcho-capitalism. On the face of it, I do think their contention that if you are truly an advocate of individualism and individual liberty (even on the foundation of Rand's argument that existence is better than non-existence (as an a priori truth) and that rational self interest is an objective value upon which all over values exist), then in order to be truly consistent you would have to oppose the idea of the state in toto, because the very definition of "state" is a social apparatus that exercises control over the individual and therefore denies a free, voluntary co-existence with other people.

I am aware somewhat about Rothbard being part of the "inner circle" to some degree or another until a falling out with Rand later on over issues they couldn't resolve. But I don't know much more than that.

Thoughts?

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Someone helpfully sent me a message saying it has been discussed many times, and I think I realized what I was doing wrong with the search function. I'll read the other threads, but feel free to respond here if there is something particular about my question that hasn't really been addressed elsewhere, or if you want to. :)

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I will do my best to explain Rothbard's mistakes from the Objectivist position.

Essentially Rothbard inverts the basic moral/political rights of man.

According to Objectivism:

1. The first political right of man is the right to life. That is the right to exist as a man qua man. Without this right, I would be dead.

2. From this right extends the correlary right to liberty, or freedom from coercion. To live as a man, I must be free from physical attack, theft, and fraud from my fellow man. Only then can I use my rational mind to continue my life and attain happiness. Without this right I would be killed or enslaved.

3. Finally, we arrive at the secondary correlary, the right to private property. In order to exist I must be able to lay claim upon and defend objects in existence, so that I may use and dispose of said objects as I please. Without this right, I would at best live in a constant state of fear that all of my production would be lost, and at worst, perish after losing my produce.

4. Objectivism maintains that these rights must be secured in the order listed. The only way to do so is to create an objective arbiter of disputes which will defend a man's right to life and liberty, SO THAT he may engage in economic transactions with private property. This arbiter is the state, an organization which holds a legitimate monopoly on force within a geographic area and uses said monopoly to defend individual rights.

According to Rothbard:

1. The first political right of man is the right to private property, AKA self-ownership. Man has the right to engage in economic transactions with his own property, which originates from his own body and the labor it puts into his environment.

2. Man can then use this right to purchase his rights to life and liberty from other individuals on the market. Overall, the market will produce optimal conditions of for liberty which individuals will voluntarily opt into.

The Problem:

Man cannot engage in economic transactions fairly, or live his life with any meanigful liberty, if his basic rights aren't protected in the first place. Rothbard's vision boils down to "might makes right" because there is no objective standard by which force should be used in a stateless society. Rand stated that rights must be protected from the outset by a single body with the power to coercively stop all those who wish to violate rights. Rothbard claimed the protection of rights should be tossed up to the market so that hopefully the good people will grab the most guns and kill off/intimidate enough of the bad people so that objective law reigns over (part of) the land.

The most common rebuttal claimed by anarchists is that governments are inherently contradictory because they are coercive entities by default. The idea is that even if a state doesn't tax its citizens (as Rand supported), it still coercively prevents other private companies from setting up "competing governments" which might provide more efficient or different services.

This challenege is predicated upon the use of an invalid concept knowns as the "market for force." Force is not a commodity or a tradeable good. Force is the imposition of will upon another being. There is no "trade" or "exchange" of coercion, only one party dominating another until the physically weaker party is destroyed or it capitulates. To suggest that there can be "competing wielders of force" is an invitation for gang warfare as "competitors" try to destroy each other on the "open market."

While we all should have the right to create products and services, and then offer them to others in voluntary exchnages, none of us have the right to pick up a bunch of guns and arbitrarily declare ourselves to be enforcers of justice unless we are permitted to by society in some manner (ie. appointed/hired by officials elected by the general population). Imagine what that would mean in concrete form: if someone steals my ipod, I would be able to find that person a few days later and execute him on the spot with a bullet to the back of the head. I could then declare that I am not a law breaker, but actually the judge, jury, and executioner in my own judicial system which I voluntarily formed for myself. And by the standards of my own legal system, the theif deserved his punishment. The only way I could be stopped (assuming that competing governments were permitted), is if another "private government" attempted to strike back at me... at which point I would rally together my own gang and we would enjoy a nice shoot out in the streets.

Anyway, I actually really like Rothbard aside from the anarchism and 100% reserve stuff. Feel free to ask more questions.

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Hi Dormin. Thank you for your reply. I had never thought of 'force cannot be a commodity traded on the market' idea before. Does this still hold for using mutally-agreed 'private arbitration' to settle a dispute or even hiring 'private detectives' (both instead of consulting a State organization)?

Also, I was hoping your response would address this but it did not. There is a underlying premise of the human population as requiring law and the possibility of retaliation with force in order to act orderly and good. Similar to the 'Galt's Gultch has no gvmt' objection (which is well answered in the post), given a rational, perhaps fully Objectivist society, would there be a need for retaliatory force? If we are all Objectivists, we would all understand our motives or interests in a particular dispute, and seek to resolve them. The initiation of force would simply be always irrational. Thus why lock our doors, why have police, etc.

But perhaps this 'ideal ALL objectivist' society will never exist, thus the need for police. We will have detractors, who may act irrationally and thus we must protect ourselves from them. And add the tiny minority of people born with hyper-aggression, even serial killers, that we would also need police for.

Overall, my inquiry rests on questioning the premise for the 'readiness' of police in relation to the composition of society. Is this necessary even in an ideal ALL Obj society, or is it necessary b/c this will not happen, and rather we will have a mix of people, and thus a small but nevertheless existing amount of violence must be guarded against. This question can also be expanded to military, given situations of total Earth Objectivist vs. a mix, the former situation, theoretically, requiring no military (ignoring alien invasion stuff).

And one more thing. The reason this question comes up for me is b/c of the ideas of anarchism. The premise that anarchists hold is that 'it can work' as long as the majority of people are rational and will not initiate force. The small minority that do, whether intentially or not, will be 'handled' locally (whatever that means, the often cited phrase is 'social ostracism', which will probably eventually populate an underground of ostracized people who will resent their state and cause havoc for the civilized).

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Private arbitration is not force. It's a contracted agreement to use a third-party service to resolve a dispute. If the arbitrator's decision is ignored by one of the parties the enforcement would still be a matter for the state.

A private detective is primarily a gatherer of information and must function within the law. They are only allowed to use force in self-defense, essentially in the same way as other citizens, i.e. in emergencies.

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Hi Dormin. Thank you for your reply. I had never thought of 'force cannot be a commodity traded on the market' idea before. Does this still hold for using mutally-agreed 'private arbitration' to settle a dispute or even hiring 'private detectives' (both instead of consulting a State organization)?

As Fawkes points out, private arbitration in today's society is not force. Private arbitration exists under the umbrella of the state and any problems will be brought to higher authorites, rather than be settled with violence.

Also, I was hoping your response would address this but it did not. There is a underlying premise of the human population as requiring law and the possibility of retaliation with force in order to act orderly and good. Similar to the 'Galt's Gultch has no gvmt' objection (which is well answered in the post), given a rational, perhaps fully Objectivist society, would there be a need for retaliatory force? If we are all Objectivists, we would all understand our motives or interests in a particular dispute, and seek to resolve them. The initiation of force would simply be always irrational. Thus why lock our doors, why have police, etc.

But perhaps this 'ideal ALL objectivist' society will never exist, thus the need for police. We will have detractors, who may act irrationally and thus we must protect ourselves from them. And add the tiny minority of people born with hyper-aggression, even serial killers, that we would also need police for.

Overall, my inquiry rests on questioning the premise for the 'readiness' of police in relation to the composition of society. Is this necessary even in an ideal ALL Obj society, or is it necessary b/c this will not happen, and rather we will have a mix of people, and thus a small but nevertheless existing amount of violence must be guarded against. This question can also be expanded to military, given situations of total Earth Objectivist vs. a mix, the former situation, theoretically, requiring no military (ignoring alien invasion stuff).

A government is a contextual need that arises from the complexity of mass society. If ten people were shipwrecked on a derserted island, it is very unlikely that they would need to convene a state and administer force in any systemic manner. Rather, with such a tiny population, all disputes should be solvable through simple discussion. With the case of something like Galt's Gulch, or a smaller Objectivist quasi-utopia, government probably isn't necesary because everyone is on board with the same rules and legal system.

However, as you note, with larger societies you tend to get more outliers who will disrupt the order. I do not think it is even possible to get a 100% Objectivist population on any large scale, but I also don't think it is necesary. When it gets to the point that simple conversation and base agreement won't solve conflicts, then a government needs to arise to solve disputes of force. At what population size or level that occurs is a judgement call.

I personally think that even in a Galt's Gulch situation with only a few hundred people, a government of some sort is necesary. Even very rational people have obscure legal disagreements and there will always be the outlier who doesn't buy into the system.

And one more thing. The reason this question comes up for me is b/c of the ideas of anarchism. The premise that anarchists hold is that 'it can work' as long as the majority of people are rational and will not initiate force. The small minority that do, whether intentially or not, will be 'handled' locally (whatever that means, the often cited phrase is 'social ostracism', which will probably eventually populate an underground of ostracized people who will resent their state and cause havoc for the civilized).

I agree with the anarchists in the sense that a majority of people must be on board with at least the basic legal premises for a proper Objectivist government to function. This doesn't mean everyone must be a Rand scholar, but it does mean that most people should understand what natural rights, the non-aggression principle, and the government are. Once these basic principles are comprehended, the rest should fall into place.

As for the social ostracism, I think it's a red herring. Social ostracism can be an effective tool, but it is by no-means the last line of defense against tyranny. Also, if social ostracism will stop the immoral initiation of force amongst "private security firms," then why do we even need "private secruity firms"? Why can't the same rules apply to every other industry and individual? No individuals or companies will steal or defraud because they will be afraid of mass boycotts? It's a pipe dream.

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Thanks, Dormin111, for your reply.

I have a few questions about it, with the consideration that my knowledge of Rand and objectivism is a little bit better than my knowledge of Rothbard and anarcho-capitalism. So could you help me clear up my understanding? As I understand it, your Point 2 about Rothbard's worldview seems a little off (and maybe your Point 1, as well). It seems to me, in my scant reading so far, that Rothbard would agree with Rand on all the points you listed for her (with the exception of Point 4), particularly that the right to life is the first foundational right, and that it's not merely a political right, but that it is in fact a "natural right."

Thus, let there be no mistake: in the Thomistic tradition, natural law is ethical as well as physical law; and the instrument by which man apprehends such law is his reason — not faith, or intuition, or grace, revelation, or anything else. (http://mises.org/daily/2426)

And:

The natural law, then, elucidates what is best for man — what ends man should pursue that are most harmonious with, and best tend to fulfill, his nature. In a significant sense, then, natural law provides man with a "science of happiness," with the paths which will lead to his real happiness. (ibid)

I don't believe Rothbard would say people "purchase" rights to life or liberty on a free market.

While I think I agree with your perspective in general, I think you may have mischaracterized anarcho-capitalists when you said things like this: "none of us have the right to pick up a bunch of guns and arbitrarily declare ourselves to be enforcers of justice unless we are permitted to by society in some manner." To my understanding, anarcho-capitalists would never say that a person can claim to be an "enforcer of justice" over someone else, because that negates the very thing they are against, anarchism (no ruler, or ruling body over other people). As soon as you take up a gun and force people to adhere to your own concept of justice, then you are in effect declaring yourself to be a ruler over those people, without their voluntary consent, and to my knowledge Rothbard was in no way advocating that.

I don't really know what his concept is of how justice is administrated, and I hope to read more from him and the likes of Hans-Herman Hoppe to learn. But am I wrong in thinking Rothbard and anarcho-capitalists do not advocate the kind of vigilante justice you describe?

Edited by secondhander

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I don't really know what his concept is of how justice is administrated, and I hope to read more from him and the likes of Hans-Herman Hoppe to learn. But am I wrong in thinking Rothbard and anarcho-capitalists do not advocate the kind of vigilante justice you describe?

It's been my personal experience with anarcho-capitalists that their political philosophy contains no functional framework for justice whatsoever. They have some floating abstractions that are not tied in any way whatsoever to the ways people actually interact in the real world. Their ideas about the function of government boil down to some badly oversimplified statements. In the mind of an anarcho-capitalist, you get a progression very much like the following:

1. Force in human relationships is bad. (This is sometimes restated as "the non-aggression principle".)

2. Government is force.

3. Therefore government is bad.

4. But it's a necessary evil.

5. So, can we construct some kind of non-force government? We can have a non-force economy by letting the market work, i.e. Capitalism. How about we apply this to government? People can shop for government like they shop for shoes, and if they don't like one, they can switch to another one. They can vote with their feet!

And that's about as sophisticated as it gets, granted with a great deal more verbiage involved. There's no reference to justice, and for good reason--because this type of "government" would utterly prevent the exercise of justice in human relationships. For example, today, I feel like taking my neighbor's stuff, but this government won't let me. So I join another government that will. What mechanism would prevent this?

Governments cannot compete on the free market because the existence of a free market presupposes the existence of a government that protects property rights. Anarcho-capitalism isn't based on reason or logic, but on an emotional feeling that all government is dangerous and unstable (which is true) and that correcting a government gone wrong often involves terrible bloodshed, misery, and destruction. So the anarcho-capitalists are looking for a shortcut to keep government on a leash, one they think will operate automatically the way the free market does over the long term. Since they grasp some concepts of capitalism, particularly the idea that the functions of a market serve to keep businesses in check without government control or regulation over the economy, they try to go backwards and apply this principle to government itself. They don't understand that it is the government's removal of force from the relationships that make up the "market" that allows business relationships to be self-regulating in this fashion. You can't remove force from government, though, because government *is* force. The proper term for competing governments is not "anarcho-capitalism" but "gang warfare".

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According to Objectivism:

1. The first political right of man is the right to life. That is the right to exist as a man qua man. Without this right, I would be dead.

2. From this right extends the correlary right to liberty, or freedom from coercion. To live as a man, I must be free from physical attack, theft, and fraud from my fellow man. Only then can I use my rational mind to continue my life and attain happiness. Without this right I would be killed or enslaved.

3. Finally, we arrive at the secondary correlary, the right to private property. In order to exist I must be able to lay claim upon and defend objects in existence, so that I may use and dispose of said objects as I please. Without this right, I would at best live in a constant state of fear that all of my production would be lost, and at worst, perish after losing my produce.

4. Objectivism maintains that these rights must be secured in the order listed. The only way to do so is to create an objective arbiter of disputes which will defend a man's right to life and liberty, SO THAT he may engage in economic transactions with private property. This arbiter is the state, an organization which holds a legitimate monopoly on force within a geographic area and uses said monopoly to defend individual rights.

Wow, this is the best explanation of Objectivist political principles I have seen. Dormin111, did you put this together yourself or is there a source I can consult for further research?

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Thanks, Dormin111, for your reply.

I have a few questions about it, with the consideration that my knowledge of Rand and objectivism is a little bit better than my knowledge of Rothbard and anarcho-capitalism. So could you help me clear up my understanding? As I understand it, your Point 2 about Rothbard's worldview seems a little off (and maybe your Point 1, as well). It seems to me, in my scant reading so far, that Rothbard would agree with Rand on all the points you listed for her (with the exception of Point 4), particularly that the right to life is the first foundational right, and that it's not merely a political right, but that it is in fact a "natural right."

I don't believe Rothbard would say people "purchase" rights to life or liberty on a free market.

Rothbard believed in the same rights as Rand and to the same end (as expressed in the quotes). However, he did not view the existence of these rights in the same "order" (for lack of a better word). You are correct that Rothbard never actually refered to "purchasing rights," but he does say that the protection of rights must be purchased. According to his philosophy, for those rights to be protected by Rand's method (government), his basic princiniple of self-ownership would have to be violated. Admittedly my description of the philosophy is not through Rothbard's words but through a layer of Objectist criticism. Rothbard would say that the right to life, liberty, and property are all the same thing, as embodied in the right to self-ownership.

While I think I agree with your perspective in general, I think you may have mischaracterized anarcho-capitalists when you said things like this: "none of us have the right to pick up a bunch of guns and arbitrarily declare ourselves to be enforcers of justice unless we are permitted to by society in some manner." To my understanding, anarcho-capitalists would never say that a person can claim to be an "enforcer of justice" over someone else, because that negates the very thing they are against, anarchism (no ruler, or ruling body over other people). As soon as you take up a gun and force people to adhere to your own concept of justice, then you are in effect declaring yourself to be a ruler over those people, without their voluntary consent, and to my knowledge Rothbard was in no way advocating that.

I don't really know what his concept is of how justice is administrated, and I hope to read more from him and the likes of Hans-Herman Hoppe to learn. But am I wrong in thinking Rothbard and anarcho-capitalists do not advocate the kind of vigilante justice you describe?

There are different types of anarcho-capitalists, I only explianed the Rothbardian variant, again in a sort-of Objectist criticism lens. Rothbard, unlike almost all other anarchists, actually did believe in objective law like Rand did. In this context, objective law refers to an objectively morally correct way to collectively wield force. Rothbard used the non-agression principle as the root of this law, which makes it very similar, though not identicial to Rand's conception of objective law. However, unlike Rand, Rothbard believed this law could only be properly created in the abscence of state. In my (Objectivist) opinion, that is a recipe for opening the use of force to any person or group who has the ability to wield it, regardless of the ethical basis of their intent. This leads to gang warfare, or at best, the chronic threat of it.

"As soon as you take up a gun and force people to adhere to your own concept of justice, then you are in effect declaring yourself to be a ruler over those people, without their voluntary consent, and to my knowledge Rothbard was in no way advocating that."

There are anarchists who believe this, but only a small subset of so called "left libertarians," who are in reality pacifists. Rothbard uses almost the same definition of government as Rand. To Rand, government was an "organization which held a legitimate monopoly on the use of force in a given geographic area."Rothbard's definition is identical save for the removal of the word "legitimate," since to him, no such legitimacy was morally possible. That being said, Rothbard still believed in the organized right of self-defense, but through private companies. Under the domain of such companies, justice would still be coercivley enforced on behalf its customers against threats. Rothbard believed that no consent was necesary to coerce legitimate threats. As long as any private companies did not aggress against non-criminals, and therefore freedom of entry and exit were permitted, the system would not resemble a state.

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Wow, this is the best explanation of Objectivist political principles I have seen. Dormin111, did you put this together yourself or is there a source I can consult for further research?

I put this together myself. As great at Rand's writings were, some times it would have been easier if she had just made bullet points.

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It's been my personal experience with anarcho-capitalists that their political philosophy contains no functional framework for justice whatsoever. They have some floating abstractions that are not tied in any way whatsoever to the ways people actually interact in the real world.

I'm not sure about those whom you've had personal experience with, but as far as Rothbard and every other anarchist libertarian leader, they do not hold the views you ascribe, that is, about forming political doctrine without the content of justice. You can take issue with the content of their theories of justice, being that libertarianism is solely a political philosophy, and thus supports a variety of theories under the same umbrella, but it would be a straw man to say that they don't have any such backing whatsoever.

1. Force in human relationships is bad. (This is sometimes restated as "the non-aggression principle".)

2. Government is force.

3. Therefore government is bad.

4. But it's a necessary evil.

5. So, can we construct some kind of non-force government? We can have a non-force economy by letting the market work, i.e. Capitalism. How about we apply this to government? People can shop for government like they shop for shoes, and if they don't like one, they can switch to another one. They can vote with their feet!

And that's about as sophisticated as it gets, granted with a great deal more verbiage involved.

I think any anarchist will point out that that is quite the straw man you've constructed. I don't think that's an effective way to rebut anything. More honest attempts at representing their arguments should be made.

Governments cannot compete on the free market because the existence of a free market presupposes the existence of a government that protects property rights.

This is introduced by David Kelley in his "Necessity of Government," and it's one oft repeated, but I don't think it succeeds. It's sort of like the old argument for the necessity of God from the 17th century which goes something like this: "Which do you need first, intelligence or language?" If we had intelligence first, we could develop language, but you might think we need language in order to have intelligence (in order to think in terms of concepts.) And so you were either committed to believing that both burst onto the scene fully formed simultaneously (as if created by God), or that there was some sort of infinite past where humans always sort of existed as intelligent and linguistic beings. which is logically impossible, ergo God.

The problem with this argument is that the reverse argument would also work on the same grounds, that you can't have a functioning government without a functioning market. Where is the legal order going to get the money and the resources to do its thing? A government requires resources, after all, so there already has to be people growing food, clothing, shelter, making tools, and producing various kinds of economic goods and services in order for you to even have a legal order. The actual people resolving disputes and producing and enforcing the law can't be spending all their time in agriculture and hunting, so there must be some existing thing already going on.

So what is the problem here then? There is a mistake in thinking that "requiring" and "presupposing" mean that "something has to be there already" in a temporal sense. It is certainly true, the anarchist could say, that you can't have a functioning market without a functioning legal order of some kind, and also that you can't have a functioning legal order without a functioning market of some kind. But it's an equivocation to then ask "well, which one came first, or has to come first?" It is the same kind of rationalistic nonsense implied in the above Good-proof.

I think it makes more sense to say that a functioning market and a functioning legal order evolve together. Certainly this would make historical sense. If we look at primitive societies, there is some primitive market order and some primitive legal order there at the same time. People are growing things, hunting things, exchanging, and at the same time there is always a way of resolving disputes. You can't really imagine a society without one thing or the other, and they just kind of evolve side by side, incrementally, and go through various iterations throughout history. So you can see that we don't need one or the other in order to get to the fully free society. We don't need a fully-formed free market to burst onto the scene right at the same time as a capitalist limited government, nor one to come before the other; they evolve from more primitive stages bit by bit.

For example, today, I feel like taking my neighbor's stuff, but this government won't let me. So I join another government that will. What mechanism would prevent this?

The free market is the mechanism that would prevent this inasmuch as, lacking a monopoly, it provides a disincentive for externalizing the costs of aggression onto others. But more importantly, I think there is this sense that in a free market society, anyone can just declare their whims to be a law, and the rest of society would go "aww dang it, what do we do now?"

I think it's a mistake to view the law as existing in some kind of magical plane "outside of" and above society, rather than existing internally, i.e. constituting whatever patterns of social activity make up a given society, so that if someone simply announces one day "I opt out of this law (e.g. the law prohibiting theft, murder, rape, etc.)" then we would all have to throw our hands up and say "aww darn it, he outsmarted us!" and for some unmentioned and undefined reason would not be able to respond. (Binswanger also hints something like this in his example of people walking down the street threatening others with guns.) Rather than be so ignorant, stupid, and moronic as this, we should have an "absolute guarantee" that all members of society will pledge themselves to follow the law. Well, I'm telling you there is never such a mystical "absolute guarantee," not now, not under limited government, and not on the free market. Therefore this type of scenario is of no force whatsoever.

Edited by 2046

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While I think I agree with your perspective in general, I think you may have mischaracterized anarcho-capitalists when you said things like this: "none of us have the right to pick up a bunch of guns and arbitrarily declare ourselves to be enforcers of justice unless we are permitted to by society in some manner." To my understanding, anarcho-capitalists would never say that a person can claim to be an "enforcer of justice" over someone else, because that negates the very thing they are against, anarchism (no ruler, or ruling body over other people). As soon as you take up a gun and force people to adhere to your own concept of justice, then you are in effect declaring yourself to be a ruler over those people, without their voluntary consent, and to my knowledge Rothbard was in no way advocating that.

I don't really know what his concept is of how justice is administrated, and I hope to read more from him and the likes of Hans-Herman Hoppe to learn. But am I wrong in thinking Rothbard and anarcho-capitalists do not advocate the kind of vigilante justice you describe?

Rothbard did seem to be okay with vigilantism. See this discussion in a previous thread. However, his student, Prof. Hoppe disagreed with this point of view and seems to think that in a private law society, vigilantism would be outlawed. Also, if you just think about it, it wouldn't make much sense to permit that type of thing. What would your family, community, neighbors, employer, etc. say if you were just running around Rambo-style enforcing the laws? You would be treated as some kind of very risky, dangerous person. Even if someone legitimately stole your TV or whatever, your social community isn't likely to put up with you barging into his house with some friends to get it back. In order to keep risks low to them, it would be in their interest to require you to call in a professional agency to deal with it, even if you were in the right.

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This is introduced by David Kelley in his "Necessity of Government," and it's one oft repeated, but I don't think it succeeds. It's sort of like the old argument for the necessity of God from the 17th century which goes something like this: "Which do you need first, intelligence or language?" If we had intelligence first, we could develop language, but you might think we need language in order to have intelligence (in order to think in terms of concepts.) And so you were either committed to believing that both burst onto the scene fully formed simultaneously (as if created by God), or that there was some sort of infinite past where humans always sort of existed as intelligent and linguistic beings. which is logically impossible, ergo God.

The problem with this argument is that the reverse argument would also work on the same grounds, that you can't have a functioning government without a functioning market. Where is the legal order going to get the money and the resources to do its thing? A government requires resources, after all, so there already has to be people growing food, clothing, shelter, making tools, and producing various kinds of economic goods and services in order for you to even have a legal order. The actual people resolving disputes and producing and enforcing the law can't be spending all their time in agriculture and hunting, so there must be some existing thing already going on.

Wealth doesn't have to be produced by a market. It can also be produced by slavery and tribal communalism (which at best is an extremely primitive market, and doesn't need established laws). I think there is some truth to Rothbard's assertion in "Anatomy of the State" that the first formal governments in history arose as unproductive (at least above subsistence level) aggressive tribes conquered productive peaceful tribes, and then rather than simply pillage everything as usual, the agressors decided to set up camp and begin extracting tribute.

So what is the problem here then? There is a mistake in thinking that "requiring" and "presupposing" mean that "something has to be there already" in a temporal sense. It is certainly true, the anarchist could say, that you can't have a functioning market without a functioning legal order of some kind, and also that you can't have a functioning legal order without a functioning market of some kind. But it's an equivocation to then ask "well, which one came first, or has to come first?" It is the same kind of rationalistic nonsense implied in the above Good-proof.

I think it makes more sense to say that a functioning market and a functioning legal order evolve together. Certainly this would make historical sense. If we look at primitive societies, there is some primitive market order and some primitive legal order there at the same time. People are growing things, hunting things, exchanging, and at the same time there is always a way of resolving disputes. You can't really imagine a society without one thing or the other, and they just kind of evolve side by side, incrementally, and go through various iterations throughout history. So you can see that we don't need one or the other in order to get to the fully free society. We don't need a fully-formed free market to burst onto the scene right at the same time as a capitalist limited government, nor one to come before the other; they evolve from more primitive stages bit by bit.

I agree that it is a strawman to say "there are no markets if there is no valid law." But I think it is more valid to say "there are no fair or stable markets if there is no valid law." If you consider what a market is in its most abstract form, the results of incentivized interactions between individuals, then indeed there is always a market of come sort, even in who the criminal ganags choose to steal from. But such markets are predicated upon zero-sum game robbery, rather and mutually beneficial trade. I think the basic argument holds up that the better the legal system is, the better (more legally equitable, less violent and fradulent) the market will be.

The free market is the mechanism that would prevent this inasmuch as, lacking a monopoly, it provides a disincentive for externalizing the costs of aggression onto others. But more importantly, I think there is this sense that in a free market society, anyone can just declare their whims to be a law, and the rest of society would go "aww dang it, what do we do now?"

I think it's a mistake to view the law as existing in some kind of magical plane "outside of" and above society, rather than existing internally, i.e. constituting whatever patterns of social activity make up a given society, so that if someone simply announces one day "I opt out of this law (e.g. the law prohibiting theft, murder, rape, etc.)" then we would all have to throw our hands up and say "aww darn it, he outsmarted us!" and for some unmentioned and undefined reason would not be able to respond. (Binswanger also hints something like this in his example of people walking down the street threatening others with guns.) Rather than be so ignorant, stupid, and moronic as this, we should have an "absolute guarantee" that all members of society will pledge themselves to follow the law. Well, I'm telling you there is never such a mystical "absolute guarantee," not now, not under limited government, and not on the free market. Therefore this type of scenario is of no force whatsoever.

The claim is not that in the face of agression in an anarchist system, everyone would stand aside and throw up their hands (that is a strawman). Rather, the claim is that what someone can or can't do is entirely predicated upon how much force he can wield. The ability of anyone to do anything is predicated upon the notion that he has gang members somewhere who will be not only be willing to fight on his behalf if need be, but also defeat any opposition which might arise. Anarchists claim that the market will for some reason naturally incline towards freedom; I see no reason for this to be so.

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I think any anarchist will point out that that is quite the straw man you've constructed. I don't think that's an effective way to rebut anything. More honest attempts at representing their arguments should be made.

Of course they talk about justice. This is not the same thing as saying that their proposed system would actually function to promote justice in human relationships. Instead, it would function to promote the destruction of justice.

This is introduced by David Kelley in his "Necessity of Government," and it's one oft repeated, but I don't think it succeeds. It's sort of like the old argument for the necessity of God from the 17th century which goes something like this: "Which do you need first, intelligence or language?" If we had intelligence first, we could develop language, but you might think we need language in order to have intelligence (in order to think in terms of concepts.) And so you were either committed to believing that both burst onto the scene fully formed simultaneously (as if created by God), or that there was some sort of infinite past where humans always sort of existed as intelligent and linguistic beings. which is logically impossible, ergo God.

Goodness, what rationalism. History has shown time and again that you don't need a free market in order to have a government. Totalitarian countries have no free market, and THEY have a government--they have a government so oppressive it controls every aspect of the daily lives of the citizenry. The market is not the only wealth-generating mechanism possible, it is merely the only properly rights-respecting and efficient method. Slavery can support a government as well. But it is impossible to have a free market *without* a rights-respecting government. They have anarchy in Somalia (some Libertarians even describe it as a "paradise"), but there is no free market there. Just various competing gangs robbing each other and passing ships. Hence why the anarcho-capitalists aren't in a hurry to move to Somalia even though it represents the practical application of their erroneous vision.

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Wow, this is the best explanation of Objectivist political principles I have seen. Dormin111, did you put this together yourself or is there a source I can consult for further research?

That is a list, not an explanation. It's an okay list, but it doesn't describe how the rights are derived or how to apply them, which are really the fundamentally important issues. For instance, he says he has a "right to life". Does this mean that you have the right to have your life be supported by the assistance of others if you fail to support it yourself? Many liberals believe this. Does this right to liberty mean that you are free to walk in to your neighbor's house and take food out of his fridge? Many anarchists believe this. Does the right to property mean that you can take anything you want as long as you can defend it? Many warlords believe this.

Important to understanding the Objectivist viewpoint is that the entire framework of rights only functions if they are applied universally, to everyone. This means that the rights are basically negative in their application. The right to life means that other people have no right to kill you. It does not mean you have a right to live at their expense. The right to liberty means that other people have no right to enslave you, not that you can do whatever you feel like doing. The right to property means that other people have no right to take what you have produced, not that you have the right to keep whatever you can steal and then defend.

Multiple governments operating in the same territory cannot protect rights in this fashion because they would lack any kind of authority over law-breakers. If the citizens can simply cancel the government's authority over them on a whim the way they can cancel their relationship with Time Warner, then there is no government authority or power and no justice. The result is gang warfare, as Dormin and I have both stated.

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Wealth doesn't have to be produced by a market. It can also be produced by slavery and tribal communalism (which at best is an extremely primitive market, and doesn't need established laws). I think there is some truth to Rothbard's assertion in "Anatomy of the State" that the first formal governments in history arose as unproductive (at least above subsistence level) aggressive tribes conquered productive peaceful tribes, and then rather than simply pillage everything as usual, the agressors decided to set up camp and begin extracting tribute.

I agree that it is a strawman to say "there are no markets if there is no valid law." But I think it is more valid to say "there are no fair or stable markets if there is no valid law." If you consider what a market is in its most abstract form, the results of incentivized interactions between individuals, then indeed there is always a market of come sort, even in who the criminal ganags choose to steal from. But such markets are predicated upon zero-sum game robbery, rather and mutually beneficial trade. I think the basic argument holds up that the better the legal system is, the better (more legally equitable, less violent and fradulent) the market will be.

Right, I think this is not disputed. I think it's fair to claim that a functioning economic order presupposes a functioning legal order, and that a functioning legal order presupposes a functioning economic order. The Kelley argument was that before you have a functioning market order, the legal order already had to be in place prior to that, therefore the very idea of legal services on the market was a priori invalid. And I hope that in the foregoing, we see that this is rationalistic nonsense, that legal orders and economic orders arise together. It’s not as though one shows up on the scene first and then "paves the way" for the other. To think otherwise is to fall once more into the metaphysical illusion I mentioned earlier, that economic activity takes place against the background of a legal framework whose existence is somehow independent and external of the activity it constrains, instead of being constituted by it.

The claim is not that in the face of agression in an anarchist system, everyone would stand aside and throw up their hands (that is a strawman)
No, I this that is exactly the claim. Take this illustration by Binswanger:

Picture a band of strangers marching down Main Street, submachine guns at the ready. When confronted by the police, the leader of the band announces: "Me and the boys are only here to see that justice is done, so you have no right to interfere with us." According to the "libertarian" anarchists, in such a confrontation the police are morally bound to withdraw, on pain of betraying the rights of self-defense and free trade.

And picture JMeganSnow's example:

For example, today, I feel like taking my neighbor's stuff, but this government won't let me. So I join another government that will. What mechanism would prevent this?

And picture this other scenario:

Let's follow this scenario of an agency placing a hit onto someone who [another person] has claimed has committed an injustice towards him. Under anarcho-capitalism, what is to prevent this from happening? After all, [someone] is just hiring his defense agency to take care of the injustice. Company X has opted out of the "legal" system [of the victim.] Of course, [the victim] deals with Company Y, who claims that [the perpetrator and Company X] is acting illegally; but how can he be when he has opted out of the "governance" of Company Y? You tell me how this would be worked out peaceably.

And the picture Rand's "you take it from there" argument.

As you can see, critics clearly envison a state of affairs in which someone just simply "opts out" of the laws, or declares their own laws valid, and the rest of us are, in Binswanger's words, "morally bound to withdraw."

The ability of anyone to do anything is predicated upon the notion that he has gang members somewhere who will be not only be willing to fight on his behalf if need be, but also defeat any opposition which might arise
Sure, but how is this any different from government?

Anarchists claim that the market will for some reason naturally incline towards freedom; I see no reason for this to be so.
The claim isn't that there is some magical reason that people will naturally incline towards freedom. Rothbard, for example, states "libertarians do not assume that the ushering in of the purely free society of their dreams will also bring with it a new, magically transformed Libertarian Man." The claim is rather that the free market provides a disincentive for externalizing the costs of aggression onto others, i.e. it is the same as the general libertarian argument against coercive monopoly and the incentive structures it faces, as versus free competition and the incentive structures of the market.

The two systems, coercive monopoly and free competition both face the same constraints you point out, that there is no such (as I mentioned) "absolute garauntee" of the ability of anyone to do anything, or to disregard the law completely, depending on his gang and the size and support thereof. The question is, therefore, which provides the better incentive structure? I think there are powerful reasons why free competition would be better. Just the fact of having a coercive monopoly means that you are insulated from certain kinds of negative feedback, given that you survive by taxes and you have a captive customer base, I think this makes you more vulnerable to anyone choosing to disregard the law or take over with their superior gang. In fact, I think it can be argued that is this not a hypothetical, but a rather accurate description of the current state of affairs.

Security agencies are not governments with a guaranteed supply of tax revenues. They depend on their customers, and so are much more responsive to customer demands. War is an expensive means of settling disputes, and even the most belligerent customer may think twice on receiving his monthly bill, while funding is limited to those personally willing to risk their own assets. Security agencies that settle their disputes by force rather than through arbitration will have to charge higher premiums, and so will lose customers to their competitors. Does this guarantee that a system of competitive security agencies will never break down into warfare? No, nothing can guarantee that, including a government. All I am making is a comparative claim: competitive security agencies are far less likely than monopoly governments to resort to arbitrary claims of ignoring the law and customs, and resorting to random acts of violence to solve disputes.

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Of course they talk about justice. This is not the same thing as saying that their proposed system would actually function to promote justice in human relationships. Instead, it would function to promote the destruction of justice.

Saying that you disagree with their theories of justice is not the same claim as there not being any such theories. Critics need to make up their mind as to which objections they want to make.

Goodness, what rationalism. History has shown time and again that you don't need a free market in order to have a government. Totalitarian countries have no free market, and THEY have a government--they have a government so oppressive it controls every aspect of the daily lives of the citizenry. The market is not the only wealth-generating mechanism possible, it is merely the only properly rights-respecting and efficient method. Slavery can support a government as well. But it is impossible to have a free market *without* a rights-respecting government. They have anarchy in Somalia (some Libertarians even describe it as a "paradise"), but there is no free market there. Just various competing gangs robbing each other and passing ships. Hence why the anarcho-capitalists aren't in a hurry to move to Somalia even though it represents the practical application of their erroneous vision.

Again, appeals to Somalia, I think are unsuccessful for the same reason as appeals to gang warfare are. This results from confused assumption that a legal framework must (or even can) be external to what it constrains. Critics are not even able to separate a legal and political structure except insofar as it is realised in familiar state-monopoly institutions. And this in turn helps to explain why anarchists often find puzzling the tendency among non-anarchists to treat a single unsuccessful or undesirable instance of a stateless society as a refutation of anarchism per se, whereas nobody regards a single unsuccessful or undesirable instance of a state as a decisive objection to the state as such. After all, governments degenerate into civil war all the time, does this count as an argument against government? Again, no, but Somalia does (even notwithstanding the fact that Somalia started out as a government and degenerated after multiple factions were competing for the ability to be the one single monopolist! It wasn't as if Somalians were all reading Rothbard one day and decided to be libertarians.)

The reason for this puzzling double standard is that while people generally recognise that states can come in a variety of different political structures, so that the failure of one type proves nothing against another, it is implicitly assumed that anarchies are all alike in structural terms, that is, that they are all structureless, and so the failure of one counts against all.

But in fact mere statelessness is compatible with a variety of different institutional and cultural arrangements, and one would expect differences in such arrangements to have a significant impact on a stateless society’s viability and compatibility with libertarian standards.

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Sure, but how is this any different from government?

The difference is one of consent and legitimacy. Yes, in the grand sense, someone somewhere must have the guns to enforce your rights, but when a government exists, the group with the guns (properly) is an organization which has the consent of its citizens and the assured firepower to back it up. That is not the same as having the consent of of one's paying customers and the hope that your gang is more powerful than the other gang.

The two systems, coercive monopoly and free competition both face the same constraints you point out, that there is no such (as I mentioned) "absolute garauntee" of the ability of anyone to do anything, or to disregard the law completely, depending on his gang and the size and support thereof. The question is, therefore, which provides the better incentive structure? I think there are powerful reasons why free competition would be better. Just the fact of having a coercive monopoly means that you are insulated from certain kinds of negative feedback, given that you survive by taxes and you have a captive customer base, I think this makes you more vulnerable to anyone choosing to disregard the law or take over with their superior gang. In fact, I think it can be argued that is this not a hypothetical, but a rather accurate description of the current state of affairs.

I am sure you are aware of Rand's argument for voluntary taxation. As long as the state isn't initating coercion, the population is not "captive." The only reason an individual would not want to be a part of a proper state is if he desired to be injust, in which case, coercion of such an individual would be proper.

Security agencies are not governments with a guaranteed supply of tax revenues. They depend on their customers, and so are much more responsive to customer demands. War is an expensive means of settling disputes, and even the most belligerent customer may think twice on receiving his monthly bill, while funding is limited to those personally willing to risk their own assets. Security agencies that settle their disputes by force rather than through arbitration will have to charge higher premiums, and so will lose customers to their competitors. Does this guarantee that a system of competitive security agencies will never break down into warfare? No, nothing can guarantee that, including a government. All I am making is a comparative claim: competitive security agencies are far less likely than monopoly governments to resort to arbitrary claims of ignoring the law and customs, and resorting to random acts of violence to solve disputes.

I agree with much of what you say in that Objectivists often sell an-caps short. However, right here is a perfect example of anarchist rationalization. Every argument against the gang warfare scenario is just smoke and mirrors which pushes the the conclusion behind a series of excuses. First, who's to say that "private security firms" won't just form their own de facto monopolies in given areas and coercively tax their own citizens (ie. a force a protection racket). Only now, there isn't even a pretention of legitimacy based on natural rights or consent of the governed, just a corporation trying to make a profit whose only responsibility is to its shareholders. Second, your assertion of the difficulties of war would only further encourage protection rackets since very agencies would be willing to go to war to defend oppressed customers.

Third, at the end of the day, we are still looking at "might makes right." If a conflict between two firms errupts, and they don't fight each other in the streets, then sure they will negotiate. In such a case, the company which will get the better deal will be the one with more physical power, and therefore less to lose in case of a fight. This will naturally marginalize the weaker company and cause it to lose customers (that is, if it allows extortees to leave), thereby bolstering the strength of the stronger firm.

And thus it comes down to the biggest guns make the rules. No objectivity. No real consent. No notion of legal equality. Only those fortunate enough to buy the right protection, and those unfortunate enough to crushed by it.

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The difference is one of consent and legitimacy. Yes, in the grand sense, someone somewhere must have the guns to enforce your rights, but when a government exists, the group with the guns (properly) is an organization which has the consent of its citizens and the assured firepower to back it up. That is not the same as having the consent of of one's paying customers and the hope that your gang is more powerful than the other gang.

If we both agree that all government exists by the consent of the governed, then it's difficult to see the force of this argument, since the criticisms apply equally to limited government, monarchy, dictatorship, tribal rule, and anything else. The bit about "hoping" is the same, since under limited government one would equally have to "hope" one's Objectivist gang is more powerful (I'm assuming "more powerful" means "having more popular support") than say, communists, or that in a monarchy, one would have to hope liberal forces had more support than, say, theocratic ones, etc. Since we agree that government rests on the consent of the governed, and since there is no such thing as a "self-enforcing rule," then there is no system on God's green earth that can get around the problem of "guaranteeing" everyone will follow the law. The best system is not one that eliminates such a problem, since no system can eliminate it, but one that does the best job of providing its constituent agents with an incentive to resolve their disputes 1) peacefully, and 2) in a manner consistent with individual rights, then differentiating between the best incentive structure, markets or governments. And again I think a perfectly reasonable case that markets would have a better constitutional structure for securing those two things, can be made.

I am sure you are aware of Rand's argument for voluntary taxation. As long as the state isn't initating coercion, the population is not "captive."
Of course I am familiar with Rand's position that her type of limited government would not necessarily have to rely on taxation. I have written before that I do not regard her case as necessarily one that I agree with, but I think it can be modified in such a way that we can picture a minarchic regime that does not tax. Whether this type of regime would work or not, it has nothing to do with whether or not the customer base is captive.

First, insofar as the government is a coercive monopoly, it compels everyone to come to it for justice, and it is in this manner that the customer base is "captive," since it faces no competition.

But secondly, I suggest that not even the "no taxation necessary" argument works out because a minarchic state would still have to engage in activities that are the moral and economic equivalent of taxation. The US. Postal Service likes to brag that it is not funded by taxes, and this is true, but it remains a coercive monopoly, since competition in the field of first-class mail delivery is illegal. Because of the knowledge and incentive problems notoriously associated with monopolies, the Postal Service inevitably costs its customers more both in actual fees and in quality-related opportunity costs than would a free market in mail delivery. This differential cost may not technically be a direct tax (a "seen,") but the respects in which it differs from a tax seem neither morally nor economically significant. We may call it a de facto tax (an "unseen.") A monopolistic legal system will necessarily be engaged in de facto taxation for precisely the same reasons. Hence the taxation-based objection to minarchy essentially stands.

The only reason an individual would not want to be a part of a proper state is if he desired to be injust, in which case, coercion of such an individual would be proper.

This has to be one of the most... just plain silly arguments Objectivists ever offer up against a free market legal system. This reminds me of one of the anecdotes about anarchist Roy Childs debating Objectivist Jeffrey St. John [emphasis mine]:

At a libertarian conference held in New York in early 1971, Roy [Childs] debated Jeffrey St. John on free-market anarchism (or as it was called then, "anarcho-capitalism") vs. limited government. SIL, one of the sponsors of the conference, recorded the debate and made the tape available the following September. When Kephart purchased SIL's book service, he acquired rights to the tape and included it as part of his Audio Forum enterprise.

St. John was known in Objectivist circles from a couple of articles he had published in The Objectivist, an honor not many outside Rand's immediate circle ever enjoyed. Limited-state libertarians had good reason to expect much from him and to hope that he would refute the noxious arguments of anarchism. They were to be greatly disappointed.

St. John evinced a familiarity with [the writings of Childs] but never once in the debate did he actually address Roy's arguments. I do not mean that in my opinion he failed to refute them; I mean literally that he did not address them. When, during the question period, he was called on to attempt to refute the logic of Roy's argument, he could assert only that under a Randian limited government there would be no cause for anyone to become dissatisfied with the defense services of the government, and therefore there would be no need for competing defense agencies even to exist; hence no competing agency would come to the attention of the government; hence government would never have to make the choice that Roy had argued would make it a violator of rights.

Why, there could just be no reason for anyone to be disatisfied with the government's service and want to purchase from someone else. Anyone who wants that is clearly an evildoer with malign intentions!

I'm sorry, but this argument is rather unconvincing. Apart from being just a glaring non sequitur, there is the "seen" and "unseen" point about costs and opportunity costs made above. The production of security and law is not, as Gustave de Molinari pointed out in the 19th century, somehow magically exempt from the laws of economics. "Either this is logical and true, or else the principles on which economic science are based are invalid." Security is not one "lump," but can be produced in marginal units at varying efficiency. There are as many reasons to both compete with and purchase from someone other than the single monopolist government as there are for competing with and purchasing from anyone else in any other enterprise.

I agree with much of what you say in that Objectivists often sell an-caps short. However, right here is a perfect example of anarchist rationalization. Every argument against the gang warfare scenario is just smoke and mirrors which pushes the the conclusion behind a series of excuses. First, who's to say that "private security firms" won't just form their own de facto monopolies in given areas and coercively tax their own citizens (ie. a force a protection racket).
Again, I've already answered this type of objection over and over. There is nothing to say that can't happen. There is nothing to say a government can't coercively tax their own citizens. There is nothing to say a private defense firm won't suddenly declare being a redhead to be punishable by death. There is nothing to say that a government won't declare being a Jew punishable by death. Any such criticism applies equally, if not moreso, to governments.

There is this idea of a government as "self-enforcing" rules that are imposed on society from without. But in fact the law exists only insofar as they are continually maintained in existence by human agents acting in certain systematic ways. A law is not some impersonal, miraculously self-enforcing robot. It's an ongoing pattern of behavior, and it persists only so long as human agents continue to conform to that pattern in their actions. Therefore no one and nothing can "guarantee" anything like the above will or won't happen, we can only point to a political structure that provides the best incentives for it not to happen, and I think again, that having a single coercive monopoly makes it easier and more likely that a statist conception of justice can be enforced, since costs can be externalized and insulated from competition.

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If we both agree that all government exists by the consent of the governed, then it's difficult to see the force of this argument, since the criticisms apply equally to limited government, monarchy, dictatorship, tribal rule, and anything else. The bit about "hoping" is the same, since under limited government one would equally have to "hope" one's Objectivist gang is more powerful (I'm assuming "more powerful" means "having more popular support") than say, communists, or that in a monarchy, one would have to hope liberal forces had more support than, say, theocratic ones, etc. Since we agree that government rests on the consent of the governed, and since there is no such thing as a "self-enforcing rule," then there is no system on God's green earth that can get around the problem of "guaranteeing" everyone will follow the law. The best system is not one that eliminates such a problem, since no system can eliminate it, but one that does the best job of providing its constituent agents with an incentive to resolve their disputes 1) peacefully, and 2) in a manner consistent with individual rights, then differentiating between the best incentive structure, markets or governments. And again I think a perfectly reasonable case that markets would have a better constitutional structure for securing those two things, can be made.

I will try to redefine the parameters of my argument.

It is very important to clarify what someone means when he says "I support anarchy" or "I support minarchy." As you have implied, this does not mean that I would rather live in a 1984 dictatorship instead of an anarchist society of Rothbardians, nor would you rather live in Somalia than a state based on the principles of the American Founding Fathers. But when we voice support for anarchy or minarchy, it must also be recognized that we should not be speaking in the some sort of "sim-city"-esque sense of divinely reordering society. Rather, all we can do is attempt to make institutional change within our own limits and except the consequences of said changes. (Bear with me, this is going somewhere.)

I support the establishment of a proper government by Objectivist definitions with a representative republic and voluntary funding. Implied in this support, is a belief in objective law and justice. There is a morally correct way to use force and a virtually infinite number of incorrect ways. As far as I am concerned, the enforcement of proper justice is the only concept for which it is proper to use violence agianst another individual to achieve an end. I do not recognize the validity of any government, gang, private security firm, etc, which does not abide by objective law. Of course it must be noted, that amongst such violators, there is a sliding scale of illegitimacy.

To say, "I support anarchy," is the same as saying, "I support the rights of individuals to engage in acts of non-objective justice," or at the very least, "I recognize the rights of such individuals to "compete" with objective lawmen on the open market." You have tried to evade this issue by relying on "incentive" arguments which all rely on the previously mentioned "sim-city" view of society. But this argument must be brought into concrete form:

Let us say that you are the CEO of a private defense firm in an anarchist society who enforces objective law (or if you disagree with that term, then you enforce the non-aggression principle). Now another firm enters your local market place and attempts to introduce Sharia law (random example of a legal system we can all agree is immoral) onto the population. Does this new firm have a right to "compete" with your firm? Does it have a right to enforce Sharia law onto your firm's customers or individuals without protection? If your answer to those two questions is "no," then I fail to see the difference between your version of a "private security firm" and a "government" since your firm is coercively enforcing its legal domain over a territory. If your answer to the questions is "yes," then I do not understand how you can advocate for the existence of such evil.

Of course just as I advocate for a proper government, yet am met with improper ones, you would surely advocate for the existence of good firms, and yet many bad ones would exist. If this is the case, then why would you prefer to leave the progression towards proper law up to intimidation and fighting on the market instead of civil society and the political process (however flawed that may be)?

And imo, most importantly, even if the stars alligned and we Objectivists achieved the dream of convincing more than half the population to agree with us, would you then support the dissitents rights to form enclaves based on around their beliefs so they could continue state-enforced religious fundamentalism, welfarism, warfarism, extortion, and theft? Or it would it be improperly coercive to force the dissidents to abide by objective laws?

You are arguing for the end of governments with the hope that whatever springs up afterwards will be better than the current state, even if that new thing is just a bunch of de facto smaller states. I am arguing for reforming our current states, or if absolutely need be, tearing them down to build new states. The more I think about this point, the more anarchy seems like a floating abstraction that is impossible to realize, even under optimal conditions. You say that the force within society will be distributed in a way so as to create competition and internalize legal costs. Why would this happen? How would this happen? Would an existing government sell off its weapon assets to the highest bidders? Would the government just stop enforcing laws? These are not just simple transition questions, they lay at the heart of what you are arguing for given the current context of the world.

I think that by leaving such questions blank, or better yet, by saying "the market" will sort them out, anarchists are able to get away without defining their terms and what they actually believe in. It is very easy to say: "in an imaginary world where a bunch of private companies had roughly equal levels of force and provided service to an assorted population sensibly, this is how anarchy would work with incentives and etc." It is much harder to put into precise terms how or why such terms would be arrived at.

First, insofar as the government is a coercive monopoly, it compels everyone to come to it for justice, and it is in this manner that the customer base is "captive," since it faces no competition.

But secondly, I suggest that not even the "no taxation necessary" argument works out because a minarchic state would still have to engage in activities that are the moral and economic equivalent of taxation. The US. Postal Service likes to brag that it is not funded by taxes, and this is true, but it remains a coercive monopoly, since competition in the field of first-class mail delivery is illegal. Because of the knowledge and incentive problems notoriously associated with monopolies, the Postal Service inevitably costs its customers more both in actual fees and in quality-related opportunity costs than would a free market in mail delivery. This differential cost may not technically be a direct tax (a "seen,") but the respects in which it differs from a tax seem neither morally nor economically significant. We may call it a de facto tax (an "unseen.") A monopolistic legal system will necessarily be engaged in de facto taxation for precisely the same reasons. Hence the taxation-based objection to minarchy essentially stands.

I am sure you are equally aware that no proper government would enforce the exitence of a public post office or other frivilous organization which is not the state's responsibility. But even at a more practical level, I would much rather except such miniscule levels of theft (the pre-Civil War US gov ran off of about 1% of GDP) over the chronic theft and fear likely to occur under anarchy (if such a thing even exists).

Why, there could just be no reason for anyone to be disatisfied with the government's service and want to purchase from someone else. Anyone who wants that is clearly an evildoer with malign intentions!

I'm sorry, but this argument is rather unconvincing. Apart from being just a glaring non sequitur, there is the "seen" and "unseen" point about costs and opportunity costs made above. The production of security and law is not, as Gustave de Molinari pointed out in the 19th century, somehow magically exempt from the laws of economics. "Either this is logical and true, or else the principles on which economic science are based are invalid." Security is not one "lump," but can be produced in marginal units at varying efficiency. There are as many reasons to both compete with and purchase from someone other than the single monopolist government as there are for competing with and purchasing from anyone else in any other enterprise.

I addressed this issue in my first post of the thread. No, security is not like other goods (and in fact is not a good in any valid sense). The choice between legal systems is not like choosing a cell phone, but rather it must necesarily impact other individuals via the threat or use of force. Unlike other Objectivists, I actually do see room for competition of legal firms under the state's umbrella. They could compete over speed, location, harshness/leniancy of judges, prices, etc, but then cannot properly compete over which laws are enforced and not enforced.

EDIT: The difference between force and other products is also amply historically demonstrated. Throughout history, virtually all communities organized into force monopolies (governments). This is due to force's unique property of imposition.

Edited by Dormin111

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I will try to redefine the parameters of my argument.

It is very important to clarify what someone means when he says "I support anarchy" or "I support minarchy." As you have implied, this does not mean that I would rather live in a 1984 dictatorship instead of an anarchist society of Rothbardians, nor would you rather live in Somalia than a state based on the principles of the American Founding Fathers. But when we voice support for anarchy or minarchy, it must also be recognized that we should not be speaking in the some sort of "sim-city"-esque sense of divinely reordering society. Rather, all we can do is attempt to make institutional change within our own limits and except the consequences of said changes. (Bear with me, this is going somewhere.)

I support the establishment of a proper government by Objectivist definitions with a representative republic and voluntary funding. Implied in this support, is a belief in objective law and justice. There is a morally correct way to use force and a virtually infinite number of incorrect ways. As far as I am concerned, the enforcement of proper justice is the only concept for which it is proper to use violence agianst another individual to achieve an end. I do not recognize the validity of any government, gang, private security firm, etc, which does not abide by objective law. Of course it must be noted, that amongst such violators, there is a sliding scale of illegitimacy.

To say, "I support anarchy," is the same as saying, "I support the rights of individuals to engage in acts of non-objective justice," or at the very least, "I recognize the rights of such individuals to "compete" with objective lawmen on the open market." You have tried to evade this issue by relying on "incentive" arguments which all rely on the previously mentioned "sim-city" view of society. But this argument must be brought into concrete form:

So far so good, up until the last paragraph. Surely there are "various and sundry anarchists" who advocate whim-worship and all kinds of nonsense, and surely these anarchists would be in opposition to Objectivism. But those types of anarchism do not reflect our position here.

We totally reject the position you describe to us, we do not support the rights of individuals to engage in non-objective justice. The main concern I am reading here is something like the following. The objection is that defense services on the market are incompatible with objective law. Critics envision that a patchwork of competing agencies each will have its own set of standards and procedures, some might reflect principles of "objective justice," some might reflect principles of "non-objective justice." Without one single coercive monopoly government to impose a uniform set of reliable and just procedures, then these critics foresee that there will be various criminal bands, gangs, warlords, outlaw agencies, etc. (you name it), that will go around performing non-objective justice.

But in fact, since we don't take that position, we fully support there being one "morally correct way to use force and a virtually infinite number of incorrect ways," we're not against there being a uniform, objective law code. We certainly think that's a good thing. What we challenge is two things: 1) Can the market produce such an objective law code, and 2) Is a free market necessary for such an objective law code, maybe objective law requires market anarchy.

Such thinking is not usually a failing of Objectivists. Take the standard leftists' argument for government regulation:

1. Standards of safety and quality are required for goods and services (an premise based on the desirability of the general health and welfare of people, totally compatible with Objectivist ethics.)

2. The market cannot produce standards of safety and quality (an un-supported assertion.)

3. Therefore government has to step in and regulate business.

How do Objectivists usually respond to this? We don't proceed by denying premise (1), that people should just ingest un-safe food and products and just shut up and like it. No, we challenge premise (2), we point out that governmental regulations aren't necessary to obtain standards of safety and quality, and that people are held responsible for damaging others' property or person.

Likewise we see this argument:

1. Individual rights require objective law (a premise supplied by Objectivist ethics and politics.)

2. Markets can't produce objective law (an un-supported assertion.)

3. Therefore there must be a single monopolist government to protect individual rights.

We are not, as you ascribe in your response, denying premise (1), we are not saying that hey, sometimes rights will get violated, sometimes unjust procedures will be applied, but oh well, that's how it goes. We rather fully agree with such uniform legal standards, we just assert that it is a non sequitur to go from there being a necessity for such standards to therefore a single coercive monopoly being necessary. If we agree that (using your words) there should be "one morally correct way," whereas another (or possible infinite number of) incorrect ways, then then it does not matter who employs the procedures in question. If one single monopoly agency employs correct procedures, then it is morally right, but so is every other agency which employs correct procedures. If, on the other hand, the one monopoly agency employs incorrect procedures, then it is morally wrong, as is every agency which employs such procedures. Thus, if there is an independent verifiable standard by which to judge legal procedures (and certainly Objectivists of all people believe this is so, because we believe that the principles of justice are grounded in reality and discoverable by human reason), then this argument has no force whatsoever.

I once also opposed anarchy because I was convinced (largely from reading Ayn Rand) of the importance of objective law. Yet not one Objectivist that I am aware of has ever defined exactly what objective law is. If one wants to proceed then, one should begin not by strawmanning the free market position, but explaining exactly what objective law is and then provide reasons why the free market cannot produce it. No one, to my knowledge, has ever done this. There is much more to be said about it, but I'll leave it here for now since that was the main point in your response.

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You are arguing for the end of governments with the hope that whatever springs up afterwards will be better than the current state, even if that new thing is just a bunch of de facto smaller states. I am arguing for reforming our current states, or if absolutely need be, tearing them down to build new states. The more I think about this point, the more anarchy seems like a floating abstraction that is impossible to realize, even under optimal conditions. You say that the force within society will be distributed in a way so as to create competition and internalize legal costs. Why would this happen? How would this happen? Would an existing government sell off its weapon assets to the highest bidders? Would the government just stop enforcing laws? These are not just simple transition questions, they lay at the heart of what you are arguing for given the current context of the world.

I think that by leaving such questions blank, or better yet, by saying "the market" will sort them out, anarchists are able to get away without defining their terms and what they actually believe in. It is very easy to say: "in an imaginary world where a bunch of private companies had roughly equal levels of force and provided service to an assorted population sensibly, this is how anarchy would work with incentives and etc." It is much harder to put into precise terms how or why such terms would be arrived at.

[...]anarchy (if such a thing even exists).

For this part, I think it's a lot more interesting. No again, we don't support just abolishing the state and hoping for the best. I think it is a bit of a misunderstanding. We are in agreement that philosophy, not politics determines the state of affairs of the world. But that does not get rid of the questions of politics. They still do have to be determined. I am not saying that, and there does seem to be a bit of a confusion sometimes with Objectivists, that if we institute the proper government, then the Objectivist movement is over and done and can disband overnight, or that society will turn into Objectivists overnight, and all will be happy. Objectivism and limited government are not immune to any of the "What if's" and "How's" you ask. Of course, philosophy will have to get us out of the mess. But once it does, the question still remains: what kind of political institutions do we set up, what kind of political structure does it take to implement our philosophy?

The question of political structure does not mean lack of emphasis on philosophy, nor imply that once the right structure is set up that all is well and the right philosophy will appear out of nowhere. Both questions are complimentary and indispensable in any system. The question of political structure and articulated philosophical principles is a joint undertaking in any political philosophy, articulated principles and incentive structures jointly supplement each other. It is the same in any system. Take the US government for example. There is a constitution, and there is a Bill of Rights. There is a political structure and there is the corresponding philosophic principles. In any political system, it is true that articulated principles come first and ground the system, but once you have that grounding, it doesn't simply solve all the problems and stop there. It is not enough to simply decree that a government shall do this and shall not do that, and shall be based on this or that philosophy. One must specify a political structure (e.g., separation of powers, checks and balances, etc.) that corresponds to the articulated philosophical principles (pursuit of happiness, liberty, individual rights), and in fact a successful political structure is one that gives individual participants an incentive to act as the articulated principles specify. So the question here is not "what political system will make people into perfect Objectivists or libertarians without philosophy," that would be a complete misunderstanding. The question is, as I have been suggesting, what political structure does the best job of providing its constituent agents with the appropriate incentives to govern themselves in a manner consistent with rationality, egoism, and individual rights.

Lastly, you ask, in passing, "if such a thing exists." I think it far more appropriate to ask "Do we ever really get out of anarchy?" Earlier you stated "I support the establishment of a proper government by Objectivist definitions with a representative republic and voluntary funding," you did not state "I support the establishment of a proper government by Objectivist definitions with a one-man dictator and voluntary funding." Why is that? After all, it's not impossible that a one-man dictator could enforce nothing but totally objective law and justice, and people could voluntarily fund him. Even the old French laissez faireists' strategy for liberty consisted of trying to convert the king to laissez-faire. But you wouldn't want to do such a thing because you recognize that, even though it might by hypothetically possible, it would be highly undesirable because of the incentive structure such a system would face. You wanted a "representative republic" because you wanted power to be more decentralized, you wanted there to be "separation of powers" and "checks and balances," in short, you wanted a more polycentric legal system.

Polycentricity is not an "all or nothing" affair, but rather a continuum. Limited government attempts to mimic the functions of the market in providing competition amongst a variety of competing branches, legal interpreters, enforcement mechanisms, and agents. Thus our problem can be one that limited government just doesn't take constitutionalism and checks and balances far enough, and thus it is an inferior incentive structure. When we speak of constitutional restraints we are presumably not talking merely of words written on a piece of paper. Such paper prohibitions are neither necessary (look at Britain) nor sufficient (look at Soviet Russia) for actually operative constitutional restraints. What matters is a nation's 'constitution' in the original sense of the actual institutions, practices, and incentive structures that are in place. So a constitution in that sense has no existence independent of the actual behavior and interactions of actual human beings. Thus, we can consider a free market society a species of, rather than as an alternative to, constitutionalism.

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