Debt is good for government. Taking money directly from people, a.k.a. taxation, a.k.a. stealing, carries with it a lot of baggage. People resent it. Debt is the easiest way for politicians and bureaucrats to get the money they need to ruin lives both at home and abroad. But even if you think government is a necessary evil, consider how the desire to do good things leads government to make everyone worse off.
Joe Politician wakes up one morning and realizes that education is good. So good, in fact, that everyone should have lots and lots of it. To make this happen, he gets the government to make it very easy for people to get loans for education. People take on debt, purchase more education, and the price of education goes up. So people take out more loans and the price goes up. Soon it becomes normal for 22 year olds to have the equivalent of a mortgage with no house.
There are many ways in which this distorts the economy, but one that is not often discussed is entrepreneurship. Continue reading →
In his recent article “Don’t Smash the State” Steven Horwitz warns that thinking about government as something that should be wiped out of existence is a diversion, and libertarians could better spend their time and effort with a more appropriate mental model.
Specifically, he views the state as a bomb that must be defused carefully or bad things will happen. He urges libertarians to reconsider radical notions like, “smash the state” and gives both a moral argument and a practical argument for picking it apart in an orderly manner.
The moral argument is that getting rid of state activities in the wrong order could cause unnecessary problems for innocent people who are dependent on the state. The practical argument is that trying to get rid of government all at once will not work. Both of these points are superficially compelling, so it is important to show their shortcomings before libertarians get the wrong idea about the state.
The moral argument says that if someone is dependent on the government and that dependence is solely due to government action, for example the minimum wage, then it would be good to remove the minimum wage laws before removing the wealth transfers that support these people. Here Horwitz says that, “Our analysis of the all the damage the state does should carry with it a deep concern about the victims of that damage.” However, there are an even greater number of victims who are totally discounted in his analysis, namely victims of taxation. Continue reading →
Dr. Ilia Murtazashvili and Dr. Jennifer Murtazashvili have done research on conflict resolution systems in Afghanistan that many ancaps will find interesting. In their paper, “Anarchy, self-governance, and legal titling“, they describe how most Afghanis choose traditional, decentralized conflict resolution solutions over state provided systems. Specifically, the paper focuses on conflicts over land and how, after doing extensive field research, the authors believe that “…it is time to rethink anarchy as a policy option in Afghanistan and similar fragile states.”
The Murtazashvilis are not suggesting total anarchy, but rather a complete laissez-faire system for resolution of disputes over land. This is not simply a matter of economic efficiency, but also the cultural and social norms of the various groups that live in the country.
“The experience on the American frontier provides ample examples of order in the pale shadow of the state. Anderson and Hill (1990, 2002, 2004) depicted how frontier settlers cooperated without relying on the American government in an ‘‘anarcho-capitalist’’ environment. During the California gold rush that commenced in 1848, individuals established informal systems of property rights to allocate access to gold deposits (Umbeck 1977).3 In fact, individuals in each of the major frontier sectors jumped the gun on land settlement by establishing government-like organizations to specify and enforce property rights during times when they had no formal rights to do so (Murtazashvili 2013).”
The most evil series of events in human history occurred in the 13th Century. It was the birth of a government led by the infamous Khans of Mongolia. Its enormity can only be understood by both the enormous levels of death and destruction and the brutal depravity of how it was carried out.
Every libertarian should know the story, and one of the best ways to hear it is from Dan Carlin’s podcast, Hardcore History. His five part series called Wrath of the Khans does an excellent job describing the horrific details.
Polystate: a Thought Experiment in Distributed Government
Zach Weinersmith identifies a serious problem in modern society, which he calls the geostate. A geostate is a bounded area of land dominated by a government. The problem with this, as Weinersmith sees it, is that people effectively have no choice in what kind of government they live under. He proposes a new kind of system in which people do not have to be involved with a geostate just because they live in a certain place, but rather may choose from a variety of anthrostates.
These anthrostates are similar to geostates in that they tax their subjects and provide some services. However, subjects may switch anthrostates every year. So two neighbors might belong to different anthrostates. If one anthrostate becomes undesirable for any reason, a person may simply switch to one that is more to their liking. He then defends this polystate system based on the numerous advantages it has over the geostate model.
The most important difference between a polystate and a geostate is not that the latter is location based and the former is not. Continue reading →
In his excellent book, The Problem of Political Authority, Michael Huemer takes a methodical and relentless approach to analyzing whether government is justified in doing things that ordinary people are not. People should not steal, but what about taxes? People should not brutalize potheads, but what about those who become federal prisoners for recreational drug use?
Concluding that government has no such authority, Huemer recommends a system where such authority is unnecessary. He explores the alternative of anarcho-capitalism and shows that even though anarcho-capitalism is not perfect, it is superior in every way to statism. Huemer makes the point that it is important not to compare some ideal anarchy with obviously flawed states, such as the USSR, but to compare the best realistic government with a realistic system of anarchy. (p185)
For those already on friendly terms with anarcho-capitalism, this book is still a worthwhile read if only for its lucid deconstruction of social contract theory. It knocks down each variation of the social contract, which is sure to be useful when talking to the kind of people who heard something about a social contract and assumed the debate was over. Continue reading →
My father, age 86, is on the final approach to the long dirt nap (to use his own phrase). His mind is 98% gone, and all he has left is hours or possibly months of hideous unpleasantness in a hospital bed. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s as close to a living Hell as you can get…
I’d like to proactively end his suffering and let him go out with some dignity. But my government says I can’t make that decision. Continue reading →