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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Somalia Is Calling, But Anarchists Don't Answer

TK) Your apriorism is in the assumption that "less aggression" is the
standard of "optimization." (TK

Sorry, I don't debate libertarians about whether aggression is bad.
That's not apriorism, that's time budgeting. Among the general
population, my empirical sense is that the overwhelming majority of
Americans agree that aggression in general is bad.

SH) is "anarchist war of all against all" a straw man or red herring? (SH

Neither. Correct me if I'm wrong, but under anarcholibertarianism I (or
my protection agency) have to be ready at a moment's notice to go to war
with anybody -- from random homeless guys right up to my billionaire
neighbor Andy Grove -- if we have a dispute about whether our respective
rights are being violated. And if I have a dispute with my protection
agency, I have to be ready to draw down on them too. Oh well, at least
I'd save myself the price of the Sopranos DVD set, since I'd be living
the show instead of watching it...

TB) fundamentally Holtz is saying that people should be forced to pay
their share to destroy whatever hobgoblins the ruling elite fabricate (TB

Nope, what I'm saying is that people should be forced to pay their share
to protect everyone's individual rights. I dare you to say "I don't
agree with Holtz that people should be forced to pay their share to
protect everyone's individual rights." Got game?

And no, I don't give "elites" a blank check. I'm the guy who put the
following sentence in the LP platform: "Whenever any form of government
becomes destructive of individual liberty, it is the right of the people
to alter or to abolish it, and to agree to such new governance as to
them shall seem most likely to protect their liberty."

Yes, I happily admit that the minarchism I support is vaguely isomorphic
(but hardly identical) to America's current institutional design of
government. Yes, we'd have elections and taxes and police. Quel
horreur! As I already said above: I probably would have a different
view of anarchism except for the evidence of 1) the American experiment
and 2) the history of lawless defense agencies (i.e. organized crime) in
twentieth-century American cities.

If minarchism is absolutely hopeless and minarchist rhetoric only
validates "the hobgoblins of the ruling elite", then why should the
Libertarian Party tolerate minarchism in its midst? Shouldn't the LP
officially condemn all minarchist heresies against
anarcholibertarianism, and rename itself the Anarchist Party? Do you
walk the walk, or do you just talk the talk?

Michael, if you don't understand or like the definition of "public
good", your disagreement is with all the Economics textbooks, not with
me. I only advocate social provision of public goods when it's for the
protection of life, liberty, and property. If you claim that such
rights are too ill-defined for us to be able to recognize when they're
being protected, then anarcholibertarianism is just as doomed as minarchism.

Mike Blessing, the public doesn't need to know the technical term "free
rider problem" in order to be aware of the issue. Just ask people two
questions: 1) Would you pay all of your assessed share of taxes if doing
so were strictly voluntary? 2) Are you worried that some government
service you value would be under-funded if all taxes were voluntary? If
you think the free rider problem is just a figment of economists'
imaginations, then you should run some man-in-the-street Prisoner's
Dilemma experiments.

ka1igu1a, the term "government failure" has not been posted on dfc_talk
since I joined the group and discussed public goods there, so I don't
know what "debunking" you think you're referring to. Your claim that I
don't address "government failure" is pure bullshit -- a simple text
search on this page shows that I was the first to use that phrase here.
Search above for my detailed discussion of it and links to my empirical
analyses of the relative risks of market failure and government failure
(also now pasted below for the link-impaired).

Tom Knapp, you can cling to your deontological claim that all taxation
is always equivalent to armed robbery, but passing that off as an
empirical claim about how taxes are judged by real people in the real
world is just silly. It's like when leftists claim that advertising is
coercion, or when feminists claim that marriage is rape. If you want to
evaluate how well different social institutions work for people, you
have to use their revealed utility functions, and not impose yours.

Anarcholibertarians ask for a complete overturning of how this polity
provides for its common defense and secures its members' right to life,
liberty, and property. According to the three leading indices of
freedom, only 13 nations (out of almost 200) are currently more free
than America. America's constitutional republican framework has been by
far the most successful in human history. It has been increasing
personal and civil liberties almost monotonically for two centuries, and
we are still among the most economically free nations in the world, with
a per-capita GDP exceeded only by Norway and Luxembourg. Our 300 million
people live and work in a continent-wide nation with a $13 trillion
economy built on a twenty-first century technological infrastructure. By
contrast, anarcholibertarians can merely wave toward a couple of
medieval island nations with populations and population densities four
orders of magnitude less than those of modern industrialized states. As
great as America is, we have detailed, redundant, and current empirical
evidence backing up the mainstream findings of modern economic science
about how market-oriented reforms within the statist framework can make
America even more free and even more prosperous. Anarcholibertarians
have nothing of the kind to support their moralizing a priori claim that
America would be a better place if we completely dismantled our system
of rights protection in favor of a promise by liberty-lovers to set a
good example of aggression abstinence.

History provides many examples of situations in which there was no
functioning monopoly on force-initiation over a significant region for a
significant period of time. I've never heard of a single case in the
entire history of organized crime across hundreds of cities in scores of
nations over multiple decades in which the unregulated market for
protection behaved remotely like what is predicted by anarcholibertarian
theory. This track record becomes even more dismal if you include all
the cases in history in which there have been regions lacking effective
sovereignty by a central authority. This amounts to an empirical
falsification of the anarcholibertarian theory of protection markets
that by the standards of social science is spectacularly conclusive.

Every single episode in which there wasn't a monopoly on
force-initiation over a region becomes a test case for
anarcholibertarianism. You can't whine that any given experiment in
anarchy wasn't set up right, because the whole point of anarchy is that
there is no central authority to configure it. Despite the literally
hundreds of such test cases, the only purported successes advanced for
the theory involve a few thousand pre-industrial farmers sprinkled
sparsely across medieval Iceland and Ireland and the frontier of
colonial Pennsylvania. In contrast to how even bastard forms of
minarchism have been so spectacularly successful compared to all other
significant social experiments, the track record of
anarcholibertarianism is simply embarrassing. That's why 99.99% of
anarcholibertarians are armchair anarcholibertarians, not applied
anarcholibertarians. Somalia is calling, but anarchists let it go to
voice mail.