Free Liberal

Coordinating towards higher values

A Priori Anarchists

by Carl Milsted, Jr.

My previous entry has inspired quite a few comments from Mr. Kinsella. Amazing comments, in my earth-bound opinion. They might be more understandable for those who live in the Platonic Astral Plane.

"If anarchy was indeed workable, then I would favor it."
Here we go again. Talk about what is "workable." An anarchist is someone who believes aggression is unjust and the state commits it. Period. It does not mean they think anarchy is "workable" (whatever that means).

I didn't say I was an anarchist; I said that I am a libertarian, only who loves liberty and dislikes aggression. I once was an anarchist, but determined that the non-anarchists are probably right: that anarchy would likely lead to something worse than the current state.

Mr. Kinsella states that one shouldn't care whether anarchy is workable or not. On the Lew Rockwell blog he states that workability should not interfere with normative discussions. By doing so he reminds me of the able-bodied young homeless in Asheville who have decided upon the normative goal of maximum leisure. Then, they complain when those of us who work for a living don't contribute to their unworkable philosophy.

Here is my normative assertion as a libertarian: aggression is bad.

The a priorists would argue that this assertion leads to the corollary that the state ought not exist becase the state performs aggression. The logic runs:

aggression is bad; the state aggresses; therefore, the state is bad.

Here is a conflicting corollary:

aggression is bad; battling warlords agress; therefore anarchy is bad.

There is aggression whether the state exists or not. To determine what the good is in this real world requires mixing the normative with the scientific. Do battling warlords aggress more or less than a modern welfare state?

-----
Then we have this whopper:

This talk further demonstrates my contention that empiricists tend to shun theory, rationalism, apriorism, and deduction and to adopt the positivist view of science that is in conflict with Austrian praxeology, which is an essential economic underpinning of genuinely "scientific" economic understanding.

Sorry, if it doesn't pass the test of experiment, it isn't theory, it's hypothesis. The point of view you express is the diametrical opposite of science; it is regression back to the thinking of universities in the Middle Ages.

A priori reasoning from very basic truths can work up to a point. But if the definitions and the axioms have even the slightest deviation from reality, the conclusions drift further from reality the more steps you take from your axioms. I wish more natural rights libertarians would study fuzzy logic...

---

Back on the Lew Rockwell blog he says:

I am not a sacrificial beast whose life is to be spent in a futile attempt to marginally benefit others. Have we libertarians turned into altruists? Do it if you want; but exhortations like this imply we libertarians have a duty to be activists. We do not. Our only libertarian duty is to avoid endorsing or employing aggression.

Why do I have this duty? Why should I never endorse an action that employing aggression even it results in a substantial net reduction in aggression? Why should I have a duty to advocate something that would not work? This statement strikes me as borderline religious. Is he implying that the Creator will be angered if I don't agree with a priori anarchism?

Why do I have a duty to watch the nation I grew up in devolve into tyranny? Why can I not do something about it?

If you wish to be an intellectual and not an activist, fine. I have no problem with that. My problem is with those who call themselves libertarian and get in the way of those of us who are actually trying to increase liberty -- and then have the gall to be self-righteous.
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In all this discussion I reiterate that my gripe is not with those who desire anarchy per se. My gripe is with those who contend that a libertarian must be an anarchist.

Admittedly, I do have some contempt for those who invoke proof by wishful thinking in their calls for anarchy.

On the other hand, I have great respect for people like David Friedman who written deeply and intelligently on the subject. I highly recommend The Machinery of Freedom to anyone, even though I now question the conclusion that there are fewer externality problems with zero government than small government.

And I might even support a venture to set up a stateless society on an island somewhere -- assuming that venture had a reasonable chance of success.

----
But I am not about to support doing such an experiment on a giant scale such as calling for the abolition of the United States of America! Undertaking such a dangerous project based upon "theory, rationalism, apriorism, and deduction" is the political equivalent of driving a nuclear waste tanker truck while stinking drunk.



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Comments

I've posted my thoughts on my Blog (including a section on "double-effect" which I think is sorely lacking in the discussions on both sides but brings the two sides into sharp relief).

http://thomasz.blogspot.com/2006/01/what-i-think-it-means-to-be-minarchist.html

But an obvious question to me is that if someone sees egregious acts of aggression going on and does nothing to stop it, would that not be a more powerful endorsement of aggression than someone who talks as if they endorse aggression but acts to stop it in every case?

Is anarchy a condition of non-aggression, or merely the condition where there is no central player attempting to prevent aggression?

And if someone ignores A enslaving, robbing, or murdering B now (as they have no duty to bother about the aggressors or the aggressed - do they even have a duty to actively give a negative endorsement?), what would be different in an anarchy than under the worst socialism?

# posted at by tomz

A few replies.

>Mr. Kinsella states that one shouldn't care whether anarchy is workable or not.

Why no; I didn't, nor did I imply it.

>On the Lew Rockwell blog he states that workability should not interfere with normative discussions.

No; I just stated that they are different, and that when one introduces workability as a criteria one ought to be explicit and aware of it and not feign surprise that not everyone is a utilitarian.

>Here is my normative assertion as a libertarian: aggression is bad.

The libertarian position is that aggression is unjustified.

>The a priorists would argue that this assertion leads to the corollary that the state ought not exist becase the state performs aggression.

No. The logic is simply this: aggression is unjustified; the state uses aggression; the state is therefore unjustified. What part of this does Milsted disagree with?

>>Here is a conflicting corollary:

aggression is bad; battling warlords agress; therefore anarchy is bad.

Even if this is true, it does not show that the state is justified, nor that aggression is justified. In fact presumably you re basing the statement "anarchy is bad" on the premise that aggression is "bad". But if aggression is bad, the state is bad, necessarily. HOw can Milsted disagree?

>There is aggression whether the state exists or not.

True. There will always be private crime; even if institutionalized crime (the state) were to disappear, we'd still have to contend with private crime. Sure. I fail to see how this elementary observation justified (public) aggression.

>To determine what the good is in this real world requires mixing the normative with the scientific.

Ah. So the normative is not "scientific"?

> Do battling warlords aggress more or less than a modern welfare state?

Are we comparing in pounds, or inches?

>Sorry, if it doesn't pass the test of experiment, it isn't theory, it's hypothesis. The point of view you express is the diametrical opposite of science; it is regression back to the thinking of universities in the Middle Ages.

Look; it's okay to be a logical positivist; many people are. But most educated libertarians are at least *aware* of the dualism of Misesian economics. Surely you are aware that not all of us are logical positivists/empiricists/Popperians? Right? I mean, check out Hoppe's stuff on epistemology and method, for example: e.g., his devastating critique of positivism in his In Defense of Extreme Rationalism: www.HansHoppe.com.
>"Our only libertarian duty is to avoid endorsing or employing aggression. "

>Why do I have this duty?

Don't ask me, man. You claimed to be against aggression. If you are, you tell me why you are. Don't ask others to give you a reason to justify your own positions.

> Why should I never endorse an action that employing aggression even it results in a substantial net reduction in aggression?

Who said you shouldn't? But you have stated theft is justified. I think what you really mean to say is that we are screwed; that theft isn't justified, but neither is the massive crime that would ensue in the absence of a small amount of minarchist-state theft; so you would prefer theft1 to theft2, since theft2 is more severe.

That, however, does NOT entail saying theft1 is justified. Which is what you said.

> Why should I have a duty to advocate something that would not work?

It does not "work" to not kill people?

What if I said: my view is that all aggressoin is bad; that no one should commit aggression. Would it be coherent for you to object to this by saying "but it's not realistic to expect there to be no crime"? No,becausemy assetion did not assume there would be no crime. It simply identified it as unjustified. You are mixing up strategy, addressing technical problems, and justifying and using normative propositions.

> This statement strikes me as borderline religious. Is he implying that the Creator will be angered if I don't agree with a priori anarchism?

You may adopt the empiricist-posivitist mindset that all norm-statements are just wow's and grr's; you can be an amoral animal if you wish. So what?

>Why do I have a duty to watch the nation I grew up in devolve into tyranny? Why can I not do something about it?

You can,and you may. But stating that theft is justified is not true; nor does it help to "do something about" tyranny. How does stating that taxes are justified help to stop the tyranny of too much taxation? Are you serious?

>If you wish to be an intellectual and not an activist, fine. I have no problem with that.

No, but you'll tax me without my consent, won't you? Thanks, that kind of tolerance you can keep to yourself.

> My problem is with those who call themselves libertarian and get in the way of those of us who are actually trying to increase liberty --

Shouting "Theft is okay"--that increases liberty!

>In all this discussion I reiterate that my gripe is not with those who desire anarchy per se.

Mighty magnanious of you. I do not "desire" anarchy. I desire a reduction of, and an end to, aggression, of all stripes: public and private. Although I do not expect it.

> My gripe is with those who contend that a libertarian must be an anarchist.

But I have provided *reasons* why I think this is so. I think the essence of libertarianism is to oppose aggression; and therefore, the consistent libertarian would oppose all forms of it. Where am I wrong? Am I wrong that libertarians oppose aggression? Am I wrong that states employ aggression? You are simply stating irrelevant comments about likelihoods and lesser of two evils points; you have not *rebutted* my very simple points.

>Admittedly, I do have some contempt for those who invoke proof by wishful thinking in their calls for anarchy.

It's not calls for anarchy; it's denunciations of institutionalized aggression. How a self-proclaimed libertarian could feel "contempt" for a fellow libertarian for opposing all forms of aggression is really beyond me.

>On the other hand, I have great respect for people like David Friedman who written deeply and intelligently on the subject. I highly recommend The Machinery of Freedom to anyone, even though I now question the conclusion that there are fewer externality problems with zero government than small government.

Right, so long as you are a Chicago-ite utilitarian positivist and weigh and balance everything, you're okay w/ Milsted, even if he disagrees--you're scientific b/c you're empiricist-positivist.

>And I might even support a venture to set up a stateless society on an island somewhere -- assuming that venture had a reasonable chance of success.

And if it didn't, then you would just tax it, right? Magnanimous of you.

>But I am not about to support doing such an experiment on a giant scale such as calling for the abolition of the United States of America!

But you are caling for that--even your minarchy would amount to the abolition of the current form of government. Anyway, how does your "calling" for it on a little website "support" it or really make it more likely? My my, we libertarains have such delusions of importance. I am reminded of those loser libertarians who take pleasure in the thought that the FBI might really have a file on them.

***

In Milsted's longer article, he writes,

>I must admit I was a bit surprised by the reaction of some anarcho-capitalists and other libertarians to my previous essay, “The Need to be Anarchists.”

Maybe because you seem to be utterly unaware that not everyone shares your positivist-empiricist-utilitarian view of things. Not all of us thing we can--or should--"weigh" net benefits and costs.

>For years, the active political branch of the libertarian movement has been paralyzed by its intellectual framework.

Wow. And here I thought it was the fact that most of the country are simpering statists, necessarily making libertarians necessarily marginalized politically. But then, I don't go in for blaming the victim--even if it "works".

>Libertarians are split between the Rothbard school of natural rights theory, that rules out practical action by the government, even where the case for government is strong,

No; they disagree *that* the case for government IS strong. Come on. You should realize this.

>1. Government must work at least twice as well as the most efficient private alternative.

Milsted here seems stubbornly, blissfully unaware of the Misesian explanation that you simply cannot objectively make such a determination.

>2. That the taxes levied to pay for said service be in proportion to the market price for the most efficient private alternative. No transfer trickery is allowed.

Whew. Well, that's a relief!

>This intellectual basis also justifies anarcho-capitalism if it can be shown to be halfway workable!

Show that "you shall not commit aggression" is workable! Otherwise, we tax you! Ha ha!

>Ah, but you do have to show it.

And if you do not... WE TAX YOU! HA HA!

> Given the large number of failures of anarchy throughout civilized history, this is an unpleasant burden for the devout anarchist. But it may not be insurmountable. Perhaps some clever anarchists can succeed in creating viable alternatives to government where the case for government is currently strong.

But if you don't.... you guessed it--we tax you! And if you complain--maybe we tax you twice, eh?

>So, anarchists, why are your attacks so intense?

Um, maybe because you are getting your way (there is taxatio) and we are not. Maybe because you are willing to steal from people who disagree with you.

>I have cut your burden down considerably compared to the utilitarians.

Good massa, good massa, Toby be good slave for massa. Massa nicer than other massas.

>I think the answer lies in this paragraph from Rober Kaercher’s “A Reply to Milsted: The Need for Anarchists” at strike-the-root.com:

“When the parasite eventually exhausts itself, as it inevitably will, the very same 99+% of people who currently say they reject anarchy will be more prepared for anarchy than they realize.

“We just need to persuade them of that crucial idea”

I think I see the problem. Many anarcho-capitalists don’t want to see government cut in half. They want to see it grow. They want it to be bad. Then, they can stand on the sidelines pointing out every loathsome aspect of excessive government so that when things get really, really bad, the people will remember the wise pronouncement of the anarchists, and dispose with the state entirely.

Well, I fail to see how a "strategist" can attack this "strategical" approach; who knows, maybe it has some merit. But I never favored it; I happen to oppose the "worse is better" school; I think worse is worse.

>In other words, many of my critics are Hegelians – Marxists of the Right as Robert Locke said in The American Conservative.

Did you cite that book in your PhD dissertation?

>And it is this mindset that I wish to attack vigorously. It is sick, evil and wrong!

Be careful, it's hard to "prove" such a contention with the appropriate experiment.

>Government works. Evil government works. It does not naturally wither away or collapse under its own weight.

Hey, the mafia works.

>Many an anarcho-capitalist fears that a minimal state will work, at least for a time,

Um, no, we think ti's unjustified even if it stays minarchist. Get it?

# posted at by kinsella