Wither the State?
In the 60s Roy Child wrote an open letter to Ayn Rand critiquing her support for the limited state. Rand held that all human interaction should be voluntary except that the right to use force in self-defence must be delegated to the state, whose only legitimate purpose is to exercise that right. This means maintaining a police agency, an army, and a judiciary and nothing more, save for a legislature and executive strictly limited to directing the functions of these three agencies.
Child’s critique essentially relied on the inconsistency in Rand’s absolute confidence in man’s reasoning power to enable him to acquire food, shelter, clothing as well as other necessities and desireables without the assistance of a coercive monopoly (the state), or resorting to the use of force or fraud himself; while, in effect, insisting that he would act irrationally when it came to defending his life and property. Child countered by expressing greater confidence in a free man’s rationality, pointing to the mutual benefits individuals, or their agents, would enjoy from cooperating in self-defence.
(My purpose here is not to repeat Child’s convincing argument but merely to allude to it to introduce my main point which will follow. Click the link above to read his letter.)
I can see no flaw in Child’s argument and am persuaded to support that political theory, a subset of libertarianism, know commonly as “anarcho-capitalism”.
“Anarchy” literally means “no rule” and this is misleading. Conventionally this term suggests a state of chaos, a wild west of lawless violence. No outcome could be further removed from that sought by those who would eliminate force from all human relationships.
Rather than no rule, we seek respect for our right to choose how, and by whom, we are ruled. Think of the term “ruled”. It refers to that set of rules which our interactions. Even if I rule, and I am ruled by, only myself, I am still ruled if I voluntarily subscribe to a set of rules to govern my actions – I am then a “self-ruler”. “To rule” and “to govern” are synonymous so I might also refer to myself as a self-governor.
The rule which anarcho-capitalists advocate as being the only proper one to apply to interpersonal interactions is that no one person may initiate violence against another. Thus we believe in rules and in being ruled, or, in other words, to being governed and thus, in government – self-government. This is hardly the same as supporting a chaotic, wild-west.
So if not the wild west, why not? What would a society of self-governors look like? If an announcement was made that the thieving, graft-ridden politicians had given up and in one-year’s time the state would be abolished what would you do?
Me? First, I would have a party to celebrate. Second, I would get in touch with others to either start or join a self-defence agency. The vast majority would want to belong to such an agency rather than go without any more protection than what they could provide for themselves. Many such agencies would arise and we would voluntarily subscribe to the agency we believed offered the best service for the lowest cost. In other words, there would be a market for collective self-defence services. If I became unhappy with the agency I chose, I could switch to another. Thus these agencies would be competing to offer better and better service at lower and lower cost in order to keep their customers happy. I would also want my agency to belong to some kind of professional association that would hold their member agencies to certain standards and arbitrate any inter-agency disputes. In a free market of collective self-defence agencies their customers would hold ultimate power.
Compare this to today’s world of governments. Right now one government enforces a monopoly over the use of force within a given geographic area. It uses force to compel you to obey many more rules than simply not to initiate the use of force against another and to rob you of half your income to sustain itself. In return it tells you it is doing all this in your best interests because, simpleton that you are, you would not otherwise build hospitals and schools and roads, etc. It also lets you mark an “X” beside someone’s name every few years and tells you that this means only the best and brightest are selected to serve you as your rulers. What a sham!
There are some really clueless people out there. Most of them do not vote, sleep in until noon, and think that Elvis is still alive and lives on a UFO with Michael Jackson. But I believe that most people who don’t vote, and this includes most young people, just don’t buy into the sham of the modern “democratic” state. They realize that their vote is meaningless because political power is brokered between elites willing to sell their souls to get it and keep it. As I said in another post, don’t vote, deny them what they need the most – your moral sanction, your willing compliance to their immoral game.
Lest one conclude that all this is the raving of an aging cynic, I assert my optimism that the modern state’s days are numbered. Technology is forcing a showdown that the state cannot win. Technology is empowering individuals to circumvent the state while it empowers the state to more effectively enforce its rule. Something has to give.
From many, including Frederick Hayek, comes the insight that the system that best utilizes information will ultimately out-compete the others. State agencies, to at least some degree, centralize decision making. Thus they can only utilize the information held by those central decision makers. Individuals, acting freely, each in his or her own self-interest, are able to utilize the immensely greater information contained in their respective brains. This gives me reason to be optimistic that ultimately technological progress, which is really the ability to utilize information, will empower the individual vis a vis the state and lead to the state’s demise in favour of a completely free society of self-governors.
A year from next Tuesday will be soon enough.