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Richard Garner

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Posts posted by Richard Garner

  1. Here we have a perfect case study in rationalism: a seemingly rational thought-process, totally removed from reality.  Mr. Garner here sets out to present an argument in favor of anarchism, not by reference to reality, but by means of words detached from their referents in reality.  As we shall see, this is the only way for the anarchist to gain a hearing: once reality enters the picture, he's finished.
    My argument was based on the logic of Rand's argument, and so no referrence to "reality" was necessary in order to show why Rand had failed to justify the existence of a government over anarchism. Nowhere in here essay did she argue that the justice of government depends on its practical necessity, and it is fortunate that she didn't, since such utilitarian pragmatism falls outside her philosophy.

    For arguments grounded in reality, sheck out Bruce Benson's writings, or the first volume of FA Hayek's Law, Legislation and Liberty.

    Ask yourself: what does it mean to say that rules of social conduct exist?  And then ask, what would it mean to say they exist apart from an entity that defines, interprets, and enforces them?  You'll notice that without the latter, the former cannot exist. 

    But for Mr. Garner, rules of social conduct just happen to be lying about, and thus anyone is free to enforce them as he sees fit.  How that describes anything in reality, I can't imagine.

    So my flaw is in not saying where the "certain rules of social conduct" come from? Well then, this is Rand's flaw too. She defined government as an institution as "an institution with the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct within a given geographic area." This definition says nothing about who or what provides the rules of social conduct - it certainly does not say that government is the institution that produces rules of social conduct. We know that government is not the only source of law in society simply by looking at society and history: Not all laws are produced through legislation. Neither are all laws judged in government courts in society - private arbitration is widespread. Neither are all laws enforced by the government.

    Here he's trying to clean up the mess he's made for himself, but instead he's reduced to talking about "a mishmash" of rules of social conduct "competing."  Whose rules?  By what means are they competing?  What facts is Mr. Garner referencing?  Mr. Garner doesn't say, because he can't.  Because if you attempted to concretize the state of a society such as the one of which he is speaking, what you would have is a bunch of people trying to enforce their own "social rules" on each other, i.e., you would have gang warfare.

    First of all I said that it was irrelevent as to whether there was only one body of legal rules, or whether there was more than one in the same geographic area. What is in question is whether there is an institution with the exclusive power to enforce them or not.

    However, why not address the possibility of different people within the same geographic area being subject to different sets of laws? Jan Narveson writes:

    Part of our idea of the law is that it should be authoritative over everyone in the geographical area occupied by the society whose law it is. We should ask a few questions about this. (1) Which "geographical area"? There is no coherent principle for drawing the boundaries of nation-states in the modern sense of the term; and if we take seriously the idea that every individual has the ultimate rights and that collectives are legitimate only if they are associations rather than forced collectivities, then this purely definitional attribute of law is seen to have no interest whatever for establishing whether or not a given person should be subject to a given law. (2) And then, is geographical continuity actually necessary? If we look again at associations, what we will find is that highly discontinuous associations nevertheless have rules and regulations and succeed sufficiently in enforcing them, the primary enforcement proceedure being simply ejection from the association.

    This raises the question of whether a society could be fully anarchic with respect to law. Could different sets of individuals intermixed in the same geographical area be subject to very different sets of "laws"? Up to a point, there is no doubt that they can, since to a degree they actually are. Different religious communities, for instance, can interlace and yet impose very different requirements on their members. Are these actually "laws," though? They certainly have some of the characteristics of law as we understand it. Those rules generality and authority over those groups whose laws they are. Consequently, their members can use them to settle disputes by the process of weighing claims in the light of the rules in question, with appointed judges to engage in the weighing process.

    What these partial sets of laws have in common is that they lack supreme authority over all, whether the individual has volunteered coverage or not.

    Now you say "what you would have is a bunch of people trying to enforce their own "social rules" on each other, i.e., you would have gang warfare." The question is what happens when one person subscribing to one legal system gets into a dispute with someone subscribing to another.

    However, I can ask you the same question: DPW, what will you do under your system when one person from one legal system gets into a dispute with someone from another? What would happen if Bob from Washington feels that Mr Mbecki in Kenya has violated his rights and wants his government to take proceedings against Mr Mbecki, only to find that according to Kenyan law, Mbecki has done nothing illegal, and so the Kenyan government refuses to allow Bob's government to take proceedings against Mbecki. After all, under your system what you would have is a bunch of governments trying to enforce their own "social rules" on the people of another other, i.e., you would have gang warfare.

    You see, we already have a situation where people from legal system can get into a dispute with people from others; people from California can get into a dispute with people from Florida; people from different countries can get into disputes; etc. etc. So your criticisms fall just as heavily on you as they do on the anarcho-capitalists.

    What Mr. Garner is saying here is that justice can be cut off from that which makes it possible: rationality.  In other words, he is saying that if the end result of some action happens to be proper, it does not matter how that action was arrived at.  If an angry mob destroys a man accused of murder, then according to Mr. Garner, that is no different from that man being put on trial and found guilty, so long as he was in fact guilty.  (Incidentally, a similar argument is used by those who say it is in one's interests to violate moral principles when one can "get away with it."  If anyone is interested, I'll expand on this point.)

    I didn't say this anywhere at all. I firmly reject the type of consequentialism you accuse me of: the propriety of an end depends entirely on how it was achieved. I also wholeheartedly deny that simply being accused by a lynch mob is the same as being put on trial and found guilty. I never said anything you accuse me of above, and your attempts to say I did just show how incapable of intellectual discourse you are.

  2. Good points, but in order to be morally correct with Objectivism wouldn't the government default to Anarcho-Capitalism rather than Anarchism?

    True, but anarcho-capitalism is a variety of anarchism, so what I said is still generally accurate. Also, in any free society, any idiots who want to get together and start communes and fruitlessly experiment with communism will be able to, so long as they do so only with the property of those consenting to it. Thats what socialist anarchists forget: Private property allows individuals to start communes or co-operatives if they want to, but socialism forbids people from engaging in capitalism if they want to.

  3. I think Roy corrected himself on this one:

    Anarchist Illusions

    by Roy A. Childs, Jr

    http://www.dailyobjectivist.com/Extro/AnarchistIllusions.asp

    As for a reply by an "Objectivist" I came across the following:

    The Contradiction in Anarchism

    by Robert J. Bidinotto

    http://www.vix.com/objectivism/Writing/Rob...nAnarchism.html

    Do note that I think all forms of anarchism are flawed.

    The Contradiction in Anarchism

    by Robert J. Bidinotto

    http://www.vix.com/objectivism/Writing/Rob...nAnarchism.html

    See Roderick Long's responses to Bidinotto here,

    Part one

    Part two

    Part three

  4. I just read a couple of letters to Rand and Objectivists claiming to prove the floating-abstractness of the Objectivist government and doing so well enough.

    However, they are based on the assumption that exercise of the right to self-defense can be an economic activity.  The opposite is the case: there is no such thing as economic activity without the guarantee of rights.  Economic activity is the relationship between two or more men - rational animals - which we call "society".  Without reason, neither society nor economic activity exist, and slavery is all that is left.  Witness the difference between ants and bees, slaves in all ways to the queen, and the highest of animals - those which have a very limited capability to reason and a very limited system resembling (but in no way comparable to) rights -, such as dolphins, apes, etc.  These highest of species engage voluntarily in mutually beneficial social activity, albeit without much in the way of production.

    The animals' system works because there is the convention of something-resembling-rights.  Men, however, cannot exist qua man - by producing - without the absolute precondition of rights guaranteed.  Men cannot produce self-defense as an economic activity without the prior condition that defense is guaranteed.  Men can produce food without a prior guarantee of food, but they cannot produce the guarantee of rights without the prior guarantee of rights.

    One letter gave the example that the victim of some crime could purchase the services of a defense corp to right the injury.  What if he cannot?  The guarantee of rights is the precondition to rational existence.  Where rights are not guaranteed, existence qua man is impossible.  The ability to purchase something is not a guarantee of rights and does not fulfill the necessary condition for rational existence.

    Ayn Rand was right when she said that moral government - a limited, checked, and constitutional republic, based on objective ethical principles and whose only function is to guarantee individual rights - is necessary.

    One letter gave the example that the victim of some crime could purchase the services of a defense corp to right the injury.  What if he cannot?  The guarantee of rights is the precondition to rational existence.  Where rights are not guaranteed, existence qua man is impossible.  The ability to purchase something is not a guarantee of rights and does not fulfill the necessary condition for rational existence
    .

    But the Objectivist state would produce the same problem. This is because "Government finance in a free society" (to quote the title of Rand's essay) would be purely voluntary. Hence, a person would only recieve the services of the government if those voluntarily donating funds to the government is willing for those funds to be used to protect others than himself.

    It is possible that people are charitable enough for this to be the case, but if people really are that charitable, then surely they would also be willing to pay for the private corporation to use retaliatory force on behalf of the person who cannot do it himself.

    Ayn Rand was right when she said that moral government - a limited, checked, and constitutional republic, based on objective ethical principles and whose only function is to guarantee individual rights - is necessary
    Rand did not prove this at all.

    Rand defined a government as

    Government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area… The difference between private action and governmental action – a difference thoroughly ignored and evaded today – lies in the fact that a government holds a monopoly on the legal use of force.

    This is her definition of government. It is not her view of what a government ought to be, it was her description of what government <i>qua</i> government is. On top of this, she also wanted government to have other features.

    Anarchy etymologically means “absence of ruler,” a ruler being a person or group of people that exercises sovereign authority. It is commonly used, then, to describe an absence of government. Anarchism is the political philosophy that desires an absence of government. Ayn Rand's definition of government was "A government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area." If there is nothing that satisfies Rand's definition of government, then government does not exist so far as Rand defined the term, and we have what anarchism may seek to establish ("may," because "an absence of government" is not the same as "all absence of government" - the term "an" implies a specific or particular type of absence of government).

    Ayn Rand's definition of government allows for two particular alternatives under which government does not exist:

    1) There is no institution that enforces certain rules of social conduct over a given geographic area. In other words, with in a given geographical area, for whatever rules of social conduct that may exist, there is no institutionalised means of enforcing them.

    2) Institutions for enforcing whatever rules of social conduct there may be exist in a given geographic area, but they do not possess the power to enforce them exclusively. In other words, they do not prevent anybody who wants to, from establishing their own similar institution within the same given geographic area and enforcing what rules of social conduct there may be.

    Notice that these examples leave open the question of whether there ought to be a single body of known, universally applicable rules of social conduct, or whether there be a mishmash of such rules, competing. This is because this issue is irrelevant to the question of whether there be an organisation that has an exclusive power to enforce these rules of social conduct or not, and so is irrelevant as to whether what Rand calls a government exists or not.

    A refutation of anarcho-capitalism must be a refutation of option 2).

    Rand explained why the use of force was justified - because men must use their minds in order to live; and so they must have rights to use their mind, and act on their decisions; and so they have a right to defend these rights. In order for men to act rationally in a peaceful and civilised society force has to be kept from human relationships. This means that the use of force must be suppressed: People must be prevented from initiating force. Government can have no right except the rights that people have, since governments are nothing more than people, and so all people have the right to suppress initiations of force. This right, Rand hopes, would be delegated to what she called a government.

    However, this just justifies the use of force to suppress force. It doesn't tell us why an organisation should exclusively possess the power to do so. Hence, telling us why having the power to suppress the use of force is not enough to tell us why having a government is necessary. Why not have sinmply institutions able to enforce certain rules of social conduct prohibiting the use of force, instead of having an institution with the exclusive power to do so?

    The anarchist argument against Rand's defense of government is essentially this:

    1) The initiation of coercion and force is immoral. “The only proper function of the government of a free country is to act as an agency which protects the individual’s rights, i.e., which protects the individual from physical violence. Such a government does not have the right to initiate the use of physical force against anyone - a right which the individual does not possess and, therefore, cannot delegate to any agency. But the individual does possess the right of self-defence and that is the right which he delegates to the government, for the purpose of an orderly legally defined enforcement. A proper government has the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use.”

    2) Government is an institution which maintains a legal monopoly on the retaliatory use of force in a given geographical area. “A government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographic area… The fundamental difference between private action and governmental action – a difference thoroughly ignored and evaded today – lies in the fact that a government holds a monopoly on the legal use of physical force”. “This distinction is so important and so seldom recognised that I must urge you to keep it in mind. Let me repeat it: A government holds a monopoly on the legal use of physical force.”

    3) But to maintain a legal monopoly on the retaliatory use of force, a government must initiate coercive force to exclude competitors. It is a logical possibility that other agencies or institutions in society can use force in a purely retaliatory or defensive manner, and therefore in a non-initiatory manner. Suppression of this use of force, then, would not be a use of force that is itself purely defensive or retaliatory. “A proper government has the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use.”

    4) Hence, to exist as a legal monopoly on the retaliatory use of force, a government must employ immoral means. A government is defined by its existence as a monopoly. Should competitor’s exist, this defining feature would be absent, and so the institution would cease to be a government. Therefore a government, in order to exist, must suppress its competitors, which means initiating the use of force.

    5) Government is thus intrinsically immoral.

    6) Hence, Ayn Rand's pro-government position contradicts her basic ethics

    In short, an organisation dedicated to prohibiting the initiation of force must allow similar organisations - that is, organisations dedicated to prohibiting the initiation of force - to exist in the same geographic area. However, this would result in an absence of an organisation possessing the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographic area, and so an absence of what Rand calls a government. It would thus be anarchism.

    Rand said that "In a free society men are not forced to deal with one another. They do so only by voluntary agreement and, when a time element is involved, by contract." She believed this so strongly that she believed that government could only be just if it was voluntary, saying

    The source of the government’s authority is “the consent of the governed.” This means that the government is not the ruler, but the servant or agent of the citizens; it means that the government has no rights except the rights delegated to it by the citizens for a specific purpose.
    and,

    The principle of voluntary government financing rests on the following premises: that government is not the owner of citizens' income and, therefore cannot hold a blank check on that income - that the nature of the proper governmental services must be constitutionally defined and delimited, leaving the government no power to enlarge the scope of its services at its own arbitrary discretion. Consequently, the principle of voluntary government financing regards the government as the servant, not the ruler, of the citizens - as an agent who must be paid for his services, not as a benefactor, who dispenses something for nothing.

    and,

    …the government of a free society may not initiate the use of physical force and may use force only in retaliation against those who initiate its use. Since the imposition of taxes does represent an initiation of force, how, it is asked, would the government of a free country raise the money needed to finance its proper services?

    In a fully free society, taxation - or, to be exact, payment for governmental services - would be voluntary. Since the proper services of a government - the police, the armed forces, the law courts - are demonstrably needed by individual citizens and affect their interests directly, the citizens would (and should) be willing to pay for such services, as they pay for insurance.

    The trouble is that government, by Rand's definition, can never ever be voluntary. This is government is an institution that excludes others from having the power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographic area. The result is that it forcibly prevents people from choosing not to delegate their right of self-defense to the government, and give it to somebody else. Rand’s government, in order to be a government, must prevent people from either contracting other agencies to use legitimate force in that given geographic area, or prevent them from establishing such agencies. For this reason it cannot possibly pass the voluntarist test of legitimacy. Since, in order to remain a government, the government must maintain an effective monopoly and suppress competition, government initiates force and is compulsory, not voluntary. It coerces citizens into accepting government as the only arbiter of their disputes and enforcer of their rights. In what way could it meaningfully be said that citizens are delegating their right to defend themselves to the government, when the government coercively prevents them from choosing to delegate them to somebody else?

    On top of this is the fact that anybody able to use force must be subject to controls that prohibit the initiation of the use of force, and this also means institutions charged with the power to enforce rules prohibiting force. Government, being the exclusive holder of the power to enforces certain rules of social conduct in a given geographic area, is therefore free from institutional restraint on its ability to initiate force. This is because nobody but the government can enforce rules against the initiation of force, and so nobody but the government can enforce these rules against the government!

    Objectivists try to counter this fact by saying that government's actions have to be rigidly defined, delimited, and subscribed. They say that government needs to be controled. Government's actions have to be rigidly "defined, delimited and subscribed" by who? "government has to be controled" by whom? After all, if government is the institution for bringing the retaliatory use of force under objective control, as opposed to simply being an institution for bringing the retaliatory use of force under objective controls, then there is no institution to turn to when the government uses retaliatory force outside of its objective standards, or even initiates it.

    Indeed, "If physical force is to be barred from social relationships, men need an institution charged with the task of protecting their rights under an objective code of rules," and this means an institution charged with the task of protecting men's rights against the government. If this institution is to protect people from the government, then it cannot also be the governnment. But if such an institution were to exist, though, the government would no longer be the institution for regulating the use of force, but would simply be an institution for regulating the use of force, amongst others. It would not have any exclusive power to accomplish this task, since others would also have this power. In short, it would not be a government.

    Therefore,

    a) Physical force ought to be kept human relationships.

    ;) "A government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographic area."

    c) "If physical force is to be barred from social relationships, men need an institution charged with the task of protecting their rights under an objective code of rules."

    d) Since government is exclusive and monopolistic in its nature, then were a government to exist there would be no institution to regulate government's use of force, retaliatory or otherwise.

    Therefore,

    e) Government ought not to exist. Whilst there ought to be an organisation with the power to enforce certain rules of social conduct, namely, to bring the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control, it ought not have exclusive powers to do this, but ought to allow other institutions to have this power, too, so that they can enforce rules of social conduct against it.

    In other words, given Rand's definition of government, anarchism follows from the premise that "If physical force is to be barred from social relationships, men need an institution charged with the task of protecting their rights under an objective code of rules." This is because some institution must bar the use of physical force by government, but the government would cease to be a government by definition were such an institution to exist.

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