Posts tagged Minarchism

Re: @Nick Ford

Really? That sounds like an oddly restrictive picture of “free market practices” to me. Let’s say that, in a non-communal, commercially-oriented market, I decide to go into business selling pizza with a partner. I’ll do the cooking (I like to cook); she’ll do the delivery (I hate delivery driving; she likes that kind of thing). We’ll split up the administrative and bookkeeping tasks. Under the heading of the partnership, we buy a store, an oven, a delivery van, and some other equipment. Using the equipment that we bought jointly with our pooled capital, I make pizzas; she delivers them to customers.

Now, if we have in fact formed a partnership, then I cannot just individually turn around and sell the store or the oven out from under her. I can’t set prices to be just anything I want, either, even though the pizzas I cook are the product of my individual labor. That’s a business decision which needs to be made jointly, unless we agreed to give me unilateral control over pricing, which we might well not do.

Does that make our pizza partnership something other than a “free market practices”? If so, it would seem like your conception of the free market allows for almost none of the commercial (let alone communal!) activity practiced in any modern market to be counted as “free market practice.” Which seems odd. If not, then what’s the relevant difference between the joint ownership and joint decision-making involved in my partnership, and the joint ownership and joint decision-making involved in a voluntary commune, where the members of the commune agree to joint ownership of land, shops or large-scale capital goods — with similar obligations of joint decision-making?

Re: @Nick Ford


In order to avoid misunderstandings, maybe you could say a bit about what you mean by a free market practice when you say that a voluntary commune, even if genuinely consensual amongst all the parties, isn’t one? For reference, when I say free market, I mean any network of economic transactions between consenting actors which respects individual liberty and property. Voluntary communes count because, as I see it, one of the things you can do with property is own it in common. Is your understanding of what counts as a free market practice different from mine?

(As for details and worries: children would be in the same situation that they are in now with individualized ownership of property: they start out being born into the arrangements that their parents have made, and live according to those arrangements that are made by their caretakers. Once they are old enough they have to decide whether to take an adult role — in a commune, I suppose this would mean becoming full stakeholders in the commune and voluntarily taking up the rights and responsibilities that go with that — or else lighting out on their own. For people who want to move in but isn’t interested in the communal stuff — the question here is not whether they have a right to rent or buy land in the area (everyone does), but rather whether they can find anyone there to rent or sell the land to them. If the land is commonly owned, then they would have to secure consent from all the current owners, just as, if someone wanted to buy the car that my wife and I used to own together, BOTH my wife and I would have to consent to the transfer. The question, then, is whether folks within the commune are interested in keeping that land within the commune, or are fine with transferring it outside. Whatever decision they’d make, this would only imperil a voluntary commune to the extent that the people within it no longer wish to maintain it. If enough are still on board to block, they either won’t sell, or will only sell when enough members feel that it won’t cause problems for continued operations. Of course, the exact details will depend on the exact decision-making procedure they’ve adopted.)

Re: @Nick Ford


Of course it’s true that “anarchocapitalists” will find that they have many differences with other Anarchists. That’s why they’re called “other Anarchists,” instead of “fellow anarchocapitalists.” But they also have many differences with minimal-statists. The question is one of alliances, not one of absolute ideological unity. But the question is where those differences lie, and whether or not they constitute deal-breakers. Since you are not an anarchist, you may not realize why many anarchists consider support for government policing, government militaries, government border enforcement, or the constant enforcement of tyrannical, rights-violating laws by government courts (in the name of “the rule of [government] law”) to be core issues for the form of libertarianism that they advocate. But the fact is that many anarchists do consider these to be core issues, and the fact is that they are all points on which “anarchocapitalists,” market anarchists, mutualists, syndicalists, communist Anarchists, anarcha-feminists, post-Left Anarchists, Green Anarchists, “Anarchists without adjectives,” etc. etc. etc. all routinely have more in common with one another than “anarchocapitalists” have with minimal-statists and Constitutionalists. Anarchism is about anarchy, after all, and sometimes that means a difference in positions and priorities from those held by governmentalists.

In any case, it’s mighty white of you to be so helpful with suggestions for anarcho-capitalists about how they can best achieve goals which frequently have nothing to do with the goals the goals that you, as a small-statist, want to achieve. However, may I suggest that if your notion of non-capitalist Anarchists is limited to communist Anarchism (ho, ho), or for that matter if your notion of communist Anarchism is limited to folks “who will murder you at the end of the line if you insist … that you have a right to keep the things you have earned,” you might try meeting some more Anarchists in general, including some more communist Anarchists in particular, and to try talking with them in a way which takes their views seriously enough to figure out where the actual points of agreement and disagreement between different Anarchist theories lie.

Let’s start with a simple one. If a group of people consent among themselves to establish communal ownership over land, shops, and large-scale capital goods, do you believe that that commune is a free market social arrangement? I.e., is that a legitimate exercise of private property rights to establish such an arrangement?


People enjoy all kinds of things, and different people enjoy different things. I think that in a free society there will be plenty of people who are interested in joining experiments or making arrangements that involve varying degrees of communal living or communal working arrangements. (Not because they disvalue freedom or individuality, but because that is how they want to exercise their freedom.)

I’m not interested in joining any such arrangement. But the nice thing about Anarchism is that I’m free to choose what sort of arrangement I want to live under. As long as anarcho-communists believe (as most anarcho-communists currently do) that people who don’t want in should be left in peace to opt out, they’re going to be a far sight better to work with than minimal-statists, who insist on the legitimacy of all the most oppressive institutions in the political statist quo, and offer no such option for opting out of their political schemes.

Re: Censorship Express


I see.

Since you haven’t identified a specific comment of mine to justify your gloss of my views on land ownership, there’s only so much I can say by way of a specific response. However, as a general thing, it seems likely to me that you’ve made two serious mistakes. First, you are mistaken if you think that my views about land ownership are identical to Kevin Carson’s. They’re not; while I respect Kevin and have agreed with him about the right (just, rights-respecting) outcome in specific disputes over land ownership, I came to those conclusions for different reasons from Kevin’s. Kevin believes in a strict occupancy-and-use for persistent ownership of land, as endorsed by Benjamin Tucker; I do not. (My view is a version of what Kevin Carson would call a “sticky” view on property claims to land.)

But, second, you are also grossly misinterpreting Kevin’s views if you think that his views amount to an “argument against a property right in improved land.” Kevin explicitly argues that each of us has an individual right to improved land, in virtue either of homesteading or consensual transfer from a previous owner. In fact he has repeatedly argued that the denial of that right by the State is the root cause of many social and economic evils. His occupancy-and-use criteria have nothing at all to do with a denial of “a property right in improved land”; it has to do with a specific theory about what constitutes abandonment of land that one used to own. That is no more a denial of a property right in improved land than it is a denial of a property right in quarters if I argue that I have a right to keep a quarter I found dropped on the street. You may of course disagree with Kevin about whether the criteria he suggests for constructive abandonment of land are good criteria. (I, for one, do disagree with him.) But it is a complete distortion of his views to claim that he is somehow simply denying property rights to improved land.

As for my own views, everything that I have ever written about rights to land (see, for example, 1, 2, 3) is based on the principle that legitimate homesteaders earn an individual property right to the improved land they homestead, which cannot be nullified by the arbitrary dictates of feudal, mercantile, colonial, or other equally arbitrary state-imposed allocation of land titles. You may very well disagree with me that the homesteaders I defend are legitimate homesteaders; you may think the land that I would argue to be abandoned, unowned, or otherwise available for homesteading is not really so. Fine; but, again, to claim that I am simply denying a property right to improved land — when in fact my whole position is based upon a property right to improved land — is to grossly distort my views.

I’ll be glad to discuss in greater detail the particular points of any particular argument if you produce some particular argument to discuss.

As for the second claim, that I (repeatedly) “appeal to a supposed lack of any possibility of objective criteria for rights,” you cite p. 161 of my essay in Anarchism/Minarchism, and my endorsement of Roy Childs’s “Open Letter to Ayn Rand,” as support. For those who do not have the book, the passage in question is now available for your inspection at Fair Use Blog. In it I argue (echoing Childs) that Ayn Rand’s theory of limited government is inconsistent, because any monopoly government must either forcibly suppress competing defense agencies that have not initiated force (thus violating the “limits” to which Ayn Rand claimed legitimate governments must be subject), or else must be willing to coexist on equal terms with non-force-initiating defense agencies (thus ceasing to be a monopoly, and ceasing to be a “government” in any sense objectionable to individualist anarchists). I would like for you, Adam, if you can, to find and point out a single claim or argument in that passage which at any point “appeals to a supposed lack of any possibility of objective criteria for rights,” either as a conclusion or as part of the argument to some further conclusion. Where do I make this appeal you claim that I make?

I submit you won’t be able to find one, because I don’t believe any such thing. (Neither did Roy Childs.) In fact, the passage you cite implicitly depends on a claim that the content of individual rights (thus what counts as an “initiation of force”) must be objective and discoverable by means of human reason, independently of government dictates; in fact, as you’ll notice on pp. 165-166 of the same book, my argument takes that implicit claim and makes it explicit, in the service of an argument against government monopoly on legislative authority: “But what must be appreciated here is that the obligation to follow those laws [that command justice or forbid injustice], and the right to enforce them, derives entirely from the content of those laws and not from their source. The government is justified in enforcing those laws only because anybody would be justified in enforcing justice, whether or not self-styled legislators have signed off on a document stating ‘Murder is a crime most foul.’ The document itself is idle; it neither obliges nor authorises anyone to do anything they were not already obliged or free to do. The government is not so much making new laws that impose obligations, but (at best!) making declarations that recognise preexisting obligations–which could be objectively specified by anyone, with or without official approval from anyone. Any right to override another’s assessment would derive from objective and impersonal considerations of justice, demonstrated through argument or attested on the basis of expertise, not from political prerogatives invested in the so-called legislature.” And, in p. 165 n. 24, you will find a note indicating a portion of Childs’s essay in which Childs explicitly makes more or less the same move (cf. his replies to quotes 2, 3 and 4 from Rand’s “The Nature of Government”).

Of course, nothing I’ve said here has yet established that I am right, or that Roy Childs is right, about individualist anarchism. Or that, whoever may be right, it would be worth your time and energy to try to work on projects with anarchists who believe in what we believe in.

Speaking frankly, I’m not very interested in hashing out the former argument yet again in the space of a comments thread. And I’m just as dubious as you are about the fruitfulness of collaborative projects between anarchists and minimal-statists, although possibly for reasons that are different from yours.

But, be all that as it may, while I’m not much concerned whether or not you agree with me, I do care about being misrepresented. To take arguments like the one you mention, and then insist that the arguer is denying the possibility of objective criteria for rights — when the whole argument is based on the principle that there are objective criteria for rights — is the worst sort of up-is-down, black-is-white distortion of your interlocutor’s views.

Re: Occasional Notes: A Little Late to Early Modernity


Thanks for the link and the reply.

I recognize that there are minarchists more radical or principled than Dale Franks, who would have refused to collaborate in a drug conviction. I have other problems with their position (after all, I’m not a minarchist), but not the problem that I have with Dale Franks. I didn’t mean to imply that every minarchist would have done what he did.

However, I do think that it’s fair for me to suggest that being a minarchist makes one systematically more likely to indulge in that kind of legalistic error than one might otherwise be. Being an anarchist has built-in intellectual safeguards against it, whereas being a minarchist doesn’t. (That’s not intended as an argument for anarchism over minarchism per se; rather it’s why I think that this case and others like it go to support my prior argument that people who have already been convinced of anarchism for other reasons should be cautious about how closely they work with smaller-government campaigns or institutions.)

As far as drug trial juries go, I would happily lie about my political views in order to get on the jury, and then, if I got on it, do everything in my power to obstruct or prevent a conviction. I think that the prosecutor in a drug case has no more moral entitlement to get the truth from me than the Gestapo would if they stopped by to ask whether I’m hiding any Jews in my attic. And while the pay scale for sitting as a juror would be shitty compared to what I could be making for my time in other pursuits, I’d be happy to give up the profits in order to help an innocent person go free.

Re: Anarchist Questions Freedom Train Metaphor

Concerning (6), yes, as per (2), I decline to make use of any government goods or services whatsoever. If you imagine that your minimal government, rather than market providers, will be laying pipes and building roads and putting up wires, then I won’t use any of those, provided that in return the government will not force me to pay for pipes and roads and wires that I’m not using (cf. (5)), and also provided that, when I make arrangements with other people to arrange for my own water, electric, and transportation needs using our own private property, your minimal government will not barge onto my property or theirs in order to force us back into their “natural” monopoly.

Concerning (7), I don’t know precisely what you mean. If you’re asking whether I intend to pay for services rendered that I requested and agreed to pay for, then of course I will honor my agreements. If you’re asking whether I intend to pay for “services” that I never agreed with anyone to pay for, which I never asked anyone for, and which were “rendered” by the free choice of the “service” provider, for her own reasons, whether I wanted them or not, then of course I intend to do no such thing.

Now that that’s out of the way, again, just so we’re clear, am I correct in saying that your view, as a self-identified minarchist, is that in Minarchistan your limited government cops will have the right to shoot me in order to force me to pay taxes in support of a minimal government whose services I have explicitly declined to make use of?

And if so, given that you said that your limited government cops would only have the right to shoot someone who was engaged in those who commit aggression or engage in revolutionary violence, and given that in my hypothetical I am clearly not engaging in revolutionary violence, am I correct in inferring that your view is that they have the right to shoot me because I am aggressing against one or more identifiable victims by declining to pay in for “public goods” which I never agreed to support, which I never asked anyone to build, which I may not ever make use of, which I may not even want, but which I was never given any option to refuse or veto, and which other people decided to build for their own reasons and for their own benefit?

I ask in the interest of clarity, not for the purposes of debate. If these are indeed your views, then I’m not much interested in arguing over (say) the legitimacy of the Single Tax, or whatever other form of taxation you believe in. I doubt either of us would convince the other. But I would like to know whether or not I’ve accurately characterized your views about the prerogatives of a minimal State. If you do indeed plan to shoot me someday for not paying my taxes, then I figure it’s worthwhile for me to know that ahead of time.

Re: Anarchist Questions Freedom Train Metaphor

So, just so we’re clear, since the risk of shooting is involved, I’d like to know what will and will not get me shot in Minarchistan.

Let’s say that I live in the territory that your limited government lays claim to, but I don’t want anything to do with it. (Maybe I’m dissatisfied with the juridical and defense services that it offers. Or maybe I’m just an ornery cuss who doesn’t like governments.) So I henceforth (1) renounce any allegiance to your minimal government. (2) I decline to partake of any of its offered services. (3) I will arrange for my own self-defense, and (4) I’ll go to willing third parties, not to government courts, in order to adjudicate any disputes I may have over questions of right. And since I don’t intend to pay for things that I’m not using, (5) I’ll also refuse to pay any taxes whatsoever to support your minimal government from this point forward. In short, I’m not interested in being part of your minimal government’s constituency, and I quit.

If I do all of (1)-(5), do you think that any of them will justify sending the limited-government cops after me in order to make me stop doing them? If so, which, and why?

Re: The Ron Paul Flap – Short Version

Lopez: Aren’t you saying that a good percentage of movement libertarians are as unreasonable as white supremacists?

Sure, on at least some issues, many if not most movement libertarians are at least as unreasonable as white supremacists are on issues of race.

For what it’s worth, I’d advise keeping minarchists, just to take one example, at arm’s length to much the same extent that I’d advise keeping paleocreep white supremacists at arm’s length. Even if white supremacist in question were professedly an anarchist, I prefer not to rely on the virtue or intelligence of people who demonstrate obviously stupid and evil ideas in other domains. And even if the minarchist were right-on on just about everything except for minimal statism, I prefer not rely on people whose political program will sooner or later involve shooting me.