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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Anarchists Only Defend One Flank

David, your Hospers quotes could use some context.  For example, "spoiled children" is not a description of all anarchists, but rather a quote of how an observer would describe it when incivility "reaches the point of petulant screaming and stamping of feet".  As an anarchist yourself, you of course haven't been on the receiving end of anarchist "name-calling" and "personal slurs" and "insistence on the evil and malevolence of anyone who makes an honest point against" anarchism.  I have.  Many times.  Hospers' essay indeed goes overboard with the strained psychological analyses, but it would be absurd to say that his essay is guilty of exactly the same level of incivility that he decries.

Susan, your bizarro version of Hospers' essay wouldn't strike me so much as "hateful" or "insulting" but rather as simply divorced from reality.  There is nothing in my experience that resonates with the notion that among minarchists there is "a strong, usually I would say a neurotic, insistence on the desirability of all forms of authority, especially government authority. There is a childish insistence on the obviousness of all points of minarchist doctrine, and of the evil and malevolence of anyone who makes an honest point against it. There is either an unwillingness to enter into calm sustained argument about it, or a childish frenzy in which they conduct argument, which makes it difficult for anyone to enter into it with them without being at the receiving end of name-calling and numerous personal slurs."

The reason, of course, is that minarchists don't argue from an absolutist, bumper-sticker-sized single-axiom philosophy.  It's apparently very tempting for anarchists to insist that all government is obviously irredeemable and that anyone who defends any state authority is on a slippery slope to e.g. "advocating mass murder".  There is a fundamental psychological difference between a) having to argue against both more state authority and less state authority and b) arguing that all state authority is ethically indistinguishable.  Defending both flanks encourages respect in minarchists for principled disagreement about the optimal amount of state authority, whereas when anarchists defend only one flank there is no need to ever respect any argument of the opposing type.  Dan Grow is my poster child here. :-)

Dan, your "double dare" is just darling.  In the last year I've repeatedly pointed you to the following lists and discussions of market failure:

Equally amnesiatic is your indignation that Chair Redpath "would subscribe to an absurd statement like 'the Libertarian Party will divest government of all functions that can be provided by non-governmental organizations or private individuals.'"  As a member of the 2008 PlatCom, I would think you would recognize the LP Platform when our Chair quotes it.  Hmm, maybe my discourses on market failure have had more impact on you than either of us realize.  I always assumed that a committed anarchist like you would just read that platform language and say: "right on, because there of course are no government functions that can't be privatized".

Now, just because I personally don't think all government functions can't be privatized, I don't think the LP should officially say that either interpretation is disallowed.  I want the Platform to allow both interpretations.  I understand that you do not.  I'm curious where Susan stands on this question of ecumenicism.  Susan, do you think the Platform should contradict a Libertarian candidate who says that something like national defense or the courts could never be privatized?