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 →
Opponents of libertarianism often ask the following question: if libertarians hate government, why not live somewhere like Antarctica or Somalia? From a very narrow perspective, they have a good point. Anarcho-capitalists could enjoy total liberty by living alone on a deserted island.
However, this would simply be trading one kind of freedom for another. Ancaps want to have freedom from crime, which is called liberty. Yet, they also want freedom from the the constraints of nature. That means technology, wealth, and division of labor in the free market. In a word: capital. If an individual only cared about liberty, any wasteland devoid of people would be paradise. However, ancaps care about capital, too. Hell, it’s in the name.
This is evidenced by the large ancap populations in places like New York City, where taxes are high, the nanny state is only overshadowed by the police state, and the government occasionally kills people for selling cigarettes. They prefer to suffer under the yoke of government and enjoy the high standard of living provided by capitalism. It is not perfect capitalism, but even the hampered market can produce an amazing abundance of prosperity. Continue reading →
In light of Leonard Liggio‘s recent death, Simon Franek sends along this interview from 1973 which he found in the archives of the recently closed FEE headquarters in New York. In it Leonard Liggio and Murray Rothbard discuss their history in the libertarian movement and their thoughts on non-interventionism.
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 →
The story describes a city that is perfect except for one thing. One child must suffer so that others can be happy. Furthermore, the people who live in Omelas are all shown the suffering child when they come of age, so no adult lives in Omelas without knowing how the system really works.
This is, of course, an apt analogy for statism. Every state exists through taxation, which victimizes at least one person. All states in history have inflicted additional suffering on both those who live in their territory and those outside of it. So Omelas might be considered an ideal state — one with minimal suffering and maximum happiness.
In the story, those who come of age in Omelas do one of two things. Most rationalize the abuse of the child and continue to live their comfortable lives. However, a few decide instead to leave Omelas. In the same way, those who support government are the majority in modern society. They want to live in Omelas and are willing to sacrifice others to do so. A few, however, realize that this is unethical and make the hard choice to reject statism regardless of the changes it might bring.
Ethics and Economics have always been the twin goddesses of the libertarian movement. Some find their way to libertarianism through Austrian Economics and others find their way to free market thinking from a conviction in personal freedom. In either case, for most of those who enjoy a libertarian state of mind, ethics and economics are always close at hand.
Economics shows the power of human cooperation. Immense cities, microscopic computers, abundant food, advanced medicine and flying machines are just some of the bounty derived from applying economic principles like division of labor and catallactics. They are the result of having a free market.
Ethics explains the difference between peaceful cooperation and criminal conflict. One might think that the difference should be obvious, but it is precisely the opposite in today’s state dominated society. Conflict is rained down like fire 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 →