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Anarchism vs. Minarchism

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PeteyRimple
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There was an earlier debate thread on Anarchism. I'm sure the search function will turn up a variety of other threads on the subject as well. My suggestion would be that you make a very brief statement of a position that you wish to debate, perhaps providing a very brief description of what you call "anarchy".

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By anarchy I mean the absence of a state which I define as an institution with a monopoly on the use of retaliatory force. I think the monopolisitic aspect of governments makes them immoral, and I believe all services rendered by the state should be provided on the free market.

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By "use" do you mean "implementation"? Even now, agents enforcing the law are not always employees of the government. The crucial thing is that they enforce a set of monopolistic laws, under the orders or authority of a single government court. Anarchy involves everybody making up their own law personal laws and hiring whoever they can to enforce their personal decisions. You also have to deal with the question of what laws will exist and who will render judgments as to whether A or B must be made to "give in".

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By "use" do you mean "implementation"?
Yes

Even now, agents enforcing the law are not always employees of the government. The crucial thing is that they enforce a set of monopolistic laws, under the orders or authority of a single government court.

I think there should be competing courts.

Anarchy involves everybody making up their own law personal laws and hiring whoever they can to enforce their personal decisions.
I think there would be shared community standards like there are in societies with states that would prevent people from being allowed to enforce their own decisions.

You also have to deal with the question of what laws will exist and who will render judgments as to whether A or B must be made to "give in
".

Like I said above, I believe shared community standards is what would provide the background law.

(Mod's note: Added quotes. Please use the Quote Block or some other clear indication when quoting another person's remarks. Thx. - sN)

Edited by softwareNerd
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I think there should be competing courts.

....

I think there would be shared community standards like there are in societies with states that would prevent people from being allowed to enforce their own decisions.

When there are competing courts, there can be conflicting decisions. Who decides which court's decision is enforced? The notion of 'community standard' is pretty open. By one understanding of 'community standard', it's okay to steal from rich people because they can afford it; by a different understanding, it's okay to enslave the poor because the poor aren't important. Who gets to decide which standard prevails?
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In the end I think it's the community's standards that decide everything. Now this is purely descriptive, I don't think any standards are good standards, libertarian ones are best. The thing is it will always have to be community standards that determine what the laws are in any country, whether it has a state or not. The state doesn't work inside a vacuum. Free-market anarchism can only work where the majority of citizens are at least like-minded enough to respect broad libertarian principles. The same is true for a minimal state, it could only work in such an environment. Now you might say that under a minarchist regime, we would have a constitution that sets the standards, but the constitution is just a piece of paper, people can choose to ignore it, and I'm afraid in America that is what has happened.

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In the end I think it's the community's standards that decide everything. Now this is purely descriptive, I don't think any standards are good standards, libertarian ones are best.
I'm not asking what would be good rules, I'm asking how you a person can know what rules he is subject to. Or are you simpy saying "There's no way to know what rules you are subject to under anarchy, so don't expect anything". That's pretty much agreed here: under anarchy, you cannot know what the rules are, anyone can make whatever rules they want and as long as you've got the muscle to back it up, your will is generally what wins.

Anarchism engages in a basic "perfectionist sour grapes" fallacy. There probably will always be some number of people who don't behave ideally; such people make for an imperfect world; no political philosopy magically eliminates all imperfections; therefore no political system is ideal. That, of course, leads to the corolloray conclusion of anarchists that it is ideal to have no political system.

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I think there would be shared community standards like there are in societies with states that would prevent people from being allowed to enforce their own decisions.

uh, yeah. What exactly is a "shared community standard". How is it developed? How is it enforced? And how is it different than a law?

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Interesting points to ponder from Kendall and David. I'll have answers for you two tomorrow. Meanwhile it's sleepy time.

I think what my argument will eventually rest on is that fact that all problems that could arise under anarchism can and do arise under a state. The advantage of anarchism though is it decetralized nature and it's moral superiority. I don't think a state is compatible with the non-coercion principle. If you look at Rand's arguments she slips in a social contract argument that is actually quite surprising.

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I think what my argument will eventually rest on is that fact that all problems that could arise under anarchism can and do arise under a state. The advantage of anarchism though is it decetralized nature and it's moral superiority. I don't think a state is compatible with the non-coercion principle. If you look at Rand's arguments she slips in a social contract argument that is actually quite surprising.

While we are on the subject of the state, I think it would be prudent to treat the laws themselves and the body that enforces them as separate entities. The laws that are supposed to be implemented in a Constitutional Republic, as intended by the philosophers of the Enlightenment, are based upon objective natural laws. This is primarily where America's Constitution comes from, as opposed to the English one which has a more murky Utilitarian aspect to it that seems to evolve with the passing fancies of the members of government.

Now, in keeping with this, I will pose this question to you. Can you give some specific examples of problems that have occured under a system of objective laws that would lead you to believe that it would be better to eliminate the system that we currently use? Material examples tend to make more abstract arguements easier to discuss, in my opinion.

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I think what my argument will eventually rest on is that fact that all problems that could arise under anarchism can and do arise under a state.
Do be careful to correctly identify the alternative that you're arguing against, which is a force-monopolistic state with objectively stated laws. That identifies a clear disadvantage of the anarchist position, namely that in principle a person cannot, under anarchy, objectively know what the law is and cannot appeal to any "ultimate authority" for peacefully resolving controversies.

Of course we will have to see your argument that anarchy is morally superior, and if you intend to argue based on a "no-coersion" principle, you need to be prepared to defend it against the Objectivist ethics. As a side note, if you can get ahold of Tara Smith's book Viable Values, she dispenses with social contract theory: if you intend to argue that Rand is invoking "social contract" theory, I'll be invoking Smith to show that it ain't so :huh:.

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I've read about 90% of Ayn Rand's writings (including the Virtue of Selfishness) and I can not find anything that would suggest a Social Contract. And I can count several occasions where Harry Binswanger, Leonard Peikoff, and several others have utterly ripped apart Rousseau and several other philosophers whom are credited with developing the Social Contract approach.

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This is from Rand's essay "The Nature of Government":

"There is only one basic principle to which an individual must consent if he wishes to live in a free, civilized society: the principle of renouncing the use of physical force and delegating to the government his right of physical defense."

This resembles very much the reasoning behind Hobbes's and Locke's social contract theories. In order to live in society we delegate some of our rights to the government. I sometimes wonder why Rand stopped with that right. Using her logic why could we not delegate other rights to the government? I hope you guys see where Im going with this.

In response to the objection that under anarchy no one will know what laws there are, I think it well to point out historical examples such as the medieval law merchant, where strict rules were put in place via the market spontaneously arriving at its own standards. In fact much of what we know today as commercial law arose through the market, not through any state. I refer you guys to the historical writings of the economist Bruce Benson especially his article in the Southern Economic Journal called "The Spontaneous Evolution of Commercial Law."

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This resembles very much the reasoning behind Hobbes's and Locke's social contract theories. In order to live in society we delegate some of our rights to the government.
A bit of resemblance isn't enough. The nature of proper law under social contract theory is simply derived from the notion of agreement, so you could be arbitrarily obligated to contribute a pound of flesh every year, if you have "socially contracted" to do so (i.e. if there is such a law). The content of law is, for social contrararians, arbitrary. For Objectivism, OTOH, it is determined by life-based metaethics. That is why Rand said (emphasis added) "There is only one basic principle to which an individual must consent if he wishes to live in a free, civilized society: the principle of renouncing the use of physical force and delegating to the government his right of physical defense".

This obligation doesn't arise from a person having supposedly agreed to something, it arises from the very nature of free and civilized societies. That obligation exists even if you do not agree. In contrast, a contract is actually not a contract if you don't agree. As I presume you know, the attempt to evicerate the concept "contract" by reference to special "social" contracts with implicit agreements and nobody even seeing this contract does serious violence to the notion of a real contract. Inagine what it would be like if businesses could contractually attach your wages by visiting a web page thereby "implicitly" agreeing to pay the business $1,000 a month.

Furthermore, contractarian theories don't explain why agreements entail obligation -- that would require a separate ethical principle. The Objectivist ethics derives the obligation to renounce initiation of force from the nature of man and the nature of civilized society, without need for an intermediate "agreement".

In fact much of what we know today as commercial law arose through the market, not through any state.
I'm entirely in favor of such negotiated business requirements. As far as I know, no aspect of the UCC is mandatory: instead, it says what the government will assume if your contract is not completely explicit in addressing all contingencies. As far as contract law is concerned, government involvement can be quite minimal, simply stating the rules of interpretation which will be invoked. The only thing that the government needs to be involved in is enforcement of contracts, meaning that once it has been objectively determined that there is a breach, the government may order the use of force to correct the breach. Private binding arbitration firms are entirely consistent with Objectivism, as long as it us understood that their decrees are only enforceable (that is, guns can only be drawn) when submitted to the government court.

The problem for anarchy doesn't really come up with contract law, it comes up with criminal law, where you are required to refrain from certain acts even when there is no contract between you and the other guy. The contractuo-anarchist can defend himself against murder charges by saying "Hey, I never agreed to not kill him".

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"Market anarchism" or what anarchists also refer to as a "market in force" is a contradiction in terms and rests on a stolen concept similar to "property is theft".

A market is a place where people can *freely* exchange goods and where no participant can force his terms or goods on any one else, e.g. force someone to buy his product vs. someone else's. As soon as force is introduced it is no longer a market. It is extortion. But by definition then there is no market, i.e. no choice.

As soon as force becomes a product to be purchased with supposedly competing vendors, the winner becomes the vendor who can force the others out of business. It becomes competing gangs with the eventual victor being the strongest gang, that gang deciding what products can be offered at what price and to whom - and that's assuming they just don't go on a looting spree. So much for the morality of "market anarchism".

Force is not some commodity which people can trade or compete over. It is a direct threat to individual rights and in contrast to other "services" it must therefore be put under restraint via carefully defined limitations. That's the purpose of the law. And as far as our rights are concerned, there is nothing to compete over. No one can offer more or less or better free speech. Free speech is a basic right. There aren't "competing brands" of it. The only question is whether a given society will acknowledge, respect, and protect it. There is no basis for choice in the matter, as if I should have the right to choose to censor your speech.

So, the whole notion of a "market in force" is absurd on its face.

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This resembles very much the reasoning behind Hobbes's and Locke's social contract theories. In order to live in society we delegate some of our rights to the government. I sometimes wonder why Rand stopped with that right. Using her logic why could we not delegate other rights to the government? I hope you guys see where Im going with this.
So what you are essentially saying is that every individual must reserve his own right to either initiate force because of some percieved wrong or to respond with force without a set of objective principles upon which to create an understanding of individual rights? There is a huge blank out here regarding what use the individual has to the right to use force that I find a bit troubling here.

Furthermore, Rand does not state that "some" of our rights must be delegated to the government, she names one specific right that the government is supposed to be placed in charge of, and further elaborates on why this should be for a host of reasons. I don't see anything in it that states that we surrender our right to protect ourselves, but instead the arguement that our actions are subject to objective laws, and that any rightful act of self-defense is based upon them.

Further still, Rand draws a very clear line about the extent to which the government is delegated responsibility. Unlike the murky unknowns of a anarchist free-for-all, I don't see any slippery slopes in her views on this subject.

In response to the objection that under anarchy no one will know what laws there are, I think it well to point out historical examples such as the medieval law merchant, where strict rules were put in place via the market spontaneously arriving at its own standards. In fact much of what we know today as commercial law arose through the market, not through any state. I refer you guys to the historical writings of the economist Bruce Benson especially his article in the Southern Economic Journal called "The Spontaneous Evolution of Commercial Law."

In my estimation, the more we start to mimic the policies of the medieval period, the quicker we will start to resemble that period. I also take issue with the notion that the Evolution of Commerical Law is spontaneous. There is a very observable progression of market freedom that began when Thomas Aquinas brought Aristotle's political theories into prominence. This is where the alleged missing link between the old barter system and the modern market begins.

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Furthermore, the existence of private "standards and practices" and a whole host of other private agreements and understandings which govern our various associations is entirely irrelevant to this issue. Most disagreements can of course fortunately be handled without involving the law. If that weren't the case the courts would be even more clogged than they are already, but now with petty disputes.

That isn't the issue and it's a smokescreen when anarchists bring it up.

The purpose of the law is to govern serious disputes and/or major violations of rights where private resolution is either not possible or not desirable. Its purpose is to avoid vigilantism and/or disputes leading to armed conflict such as, e.g. "blood feuds" which have been known to go on for decades, even centuries.

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Furthermore, the existence of private "standards and practices" and a whole host of other private agreements and understandings which govern our various associations is entirely irrelevant to this issue.

The irrelevance goes deeper still. Most "standards and practices", private arbitration and other forms of non-governmental dispute settlement rest on the fact that government settlement is ultimately available. A company that follows a private arbiter's decision does so not merely because not doing so would stain its reputation (which it could) but also because having contractually agreed to the arbitration it can be sued in a "real court" if it fails to comply.

Once the option of "just shooting the other guy" is in play, all of that falls through. Your identification of the stolen concept is precise.

mrocktor

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I'm just going to let you know that PeteyRimple won't be back from vacation until Monday, and I am pretty sure this debate forum is for 1vs1's. So, there need not be 5 replies from different people to one of his posts before he even responds. If someone really wants to get at this debate, I'm sure I could carry his side of the debate for fun's sake on AIM (onelungedwonder) or in a different forum that wasn't dedicated to formal debate.

Thanks

Chris

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[b]Presentation of the moral superiority of anarchism

Let us start with Ayn Rand’s definition of what government is: “A government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area.” (VOS)

My argument will rest on the case that in order to maintain this “exclusive power” governments must necessarily resort to the initiation of force, which by Objectivist standards, is a moral evil.

Take for instance the case of a fully rational man whose rights have recently been violated by a thief. He would very much like to see justice served to this thief. He decides however, that this underground private company would do a better job serving up justice then the current government, for whatever strange reason. And let us assume that this private company has a reputation for being completely fair and objective in its proceedings. What is a government supposed to do in this case? If it lets the man proceed with hiring the private company then it has lost its “exclusive power”. I suppose it could try to use voluntary means by which to persuade the man to come to the government for justice, but let’s say the man isn’t persuaded. What can the government “morally” do in this case? Obviously it will have to let the man proceed with turning to the private company for justice and if it does this then anarchy reins. However if it uses force to prevent the man from turning to this private company then it has out-stepped the bounds of morality and has become an initiator of force, hence immoral. And in this case this is what the state must do and does do in order to maintain its “exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct”.

My main point here is that by placing restrictions on the use of retaliatory force or on who can use retaliatory force, the government is necessarily initiating force.

But the Objectivist might respond, “We need restrictions on the use of force in order to prevent the initiation of force from slipping in through the back door so to speak”.

I agree. However what this really boils down to is placing restrictions on the initiation of force, which no one is debating. But even in the case where we know a person or a private company is using purely rational and objective means to punish criminals, the objectivist still demands that the government have a monopoly on the use of retaliatory force. Why is this? Is this because once someone is in government they’re somehow magically more rational and objective then other people? I’d like to see any Objectivist argue that.

A second response I’m guessing I’ll probably here is that Objectivists have no problem with there being private enforcement of justice, just so long as there is the government in the background to make sure these procedures are objective and rational. But if that’s all the government is doing I don’t see how it still resembles the state as it is commonly understood. Second, why can’t we have people compete with the government for this position of godlike surveyor of justice? Again I ask: does the government have a monopoly on being objective and rational?

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There is no right to vigilantism - no right to take the law into your own hands, whether you do it yourself or whether you hire a hit man to do it for you. It is you therefore who are initiating force, not the gov't in stopping you. The gov't in this instance would be protecting us against vigilantism and the breakdown in law and order which would ensue as a result of it.

The idea of a "rational man" or of a "fully rational company" engaging in vigilantism is therefore a contradiction in terms. No one rational would take it upon himself to be judge, jury and executioner in his own case - and certainly not if a rational legal system exists which is performing that function. If such a system does not exist, rational men will strive to create one - not allow a system to exist where rival gangs replace the law. A mixed system like our present one, even though it violates many of our rights, is far, far better than a state in which gang warfare is the norm - and anarchism is nothing but gang warfare.

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There is no right to vigilantism - no right to take the law into your own hands, whether you do it yourself or whether you hire a hit man to do it for you.
In order to prevent a person from taking the law into their own hands the government must initiate force. You haven't responded to that point yet.

If by law we mean my rights as set out by morality, then I'm afraid I profoundly disagree with you, I do believe I have the right to take the law into my own hands. Are serously prepared to argue that only a select group of people in society calling themselves a government have the right to make moral judgements and execute them?

The gov't in this instance would be protecting us against vigilantism and the breakdown in law and order which would ensue as a result of it.
An enormous amount of historical and anthropological evidence says that law and order have been around much longer than states have.

The idea of a "rational man" or of a "fully rational company" engaging in vigilantism is therefore a contradiction in terms.
And how is that exactly? That sounds like a very circular argument.

No one rational would take it upon himself to be judge, jury and executioner in his own case
It's not as though without a government everyone would be enforcing their own rights. Have you ever heard of the division of labor? If the government doesn't make shoes that doesn't mean everyone makes their own shoes.

If such a system does not exist, rational men will strive to create one
Why can't rational men do that voluntarily on the market?

not allow a system to exist where rival gangs replace the law.
Don't we kind of have rival gangs now, for instance Canada and the US? If we are worried about rivals I guess your argument would imply we need world government.

and anarchism is nothing but gang warfare.

And where/how was that established?

(Mod's note: Edited to fix quote tags-sN)

Edited by softwareNerd
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Fred has given you the essential problem with your argument -- it depends on the false supposition that you have the right to hire any vigilante you want. I would like to point to another aspect of the immorality of anarchism, namely its disdain for the concept of objective morality. Something that I have noted over the past 5 years reading the posts of various ill-informed Objectivist wanna-bes, libertoonians and those unfortunate atheist conservatives that just have nowhere to be, is that they have wildly different and very strongly held ideas about what is "the proper legal solution" given some problem. If somebody steals $100 from you, is the proper solution to take back $100 from the thief (the minimal-punishment solution), or to confiscate all of the thief's property (some or all of it to be given to the victim) and execute the thief as an irrational beast unfit to live amongst men (the don't screw with me response). Both approaches have in common the principle that you have the right to your money. Anarchism not only precludes having any well-defined legal statements of what it means to have "rights", but it also precludes having objective responses to rights violations. Instead, you get to shop around for the most agressive enforcement company you can find, one of those shops that advocates the rape, pillage and plunder approach to justice. Any ostensively retaliatory force used under the pretext of achieving justice which is actually in excess of what is objectively justified for the purpose of justice is, in fact, the initiation of force. But under anarchy, we have no idea what that level of retaliatory force is.

The point that you seem to be missing / avoiding is that under a proper government, there is a single standard, one made known to all people. Under anarchy, there can be any number of standards, and no requirement whatsoever that a company publically announce what its standards are or who its customers are. Thus in any dealing with another person, I have no way of knowing whether greeting the person without permission will be considered the initiation of force. That's why I have a right to know who your protection-squad is and what the terms of your contract with them are.

Ao take another common divergence in opinions about law and morality, is it a punishable offense to take a book from a person without permission, or do you have to knowingly take the book from another without permission? If you subscribe to the former theory, then you are hereby on notice that you have no right to ever be in my presence and I will call out my mob to approach me, because I need to protect myself against your overzealous goon squad which does not properly understand the concept of "theft", as codified in laws. A "civilization" with no laws is not a civilization.

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