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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Existence Proofs For Minarchism

Tom Knapp, the platform language you cited was about "all efforts by government to redistribute wealth".  That's clearly about intent.  QED.

In August of 2007, in response to my claim that a stateless free market would underproduce public (non-rival non-excludable) goods like justice for the poor/weak, you said:  TK) Still waiting for evidence of either the existence of such goods, or of "under-production," "catastrophic" or otherwise, of such goods by the free market. (TK   That sounded to me like a denial that there's any reason to believe that protection markets wouldn't work as Rothbardians advertise in the absence of the State.  Next time, don't accuse me of pretense or straw men unless you have a better idea of what is and isn't in my laptop's search index. :-)

Susan Hogarth, the idea of rational self-interest leading directly to systematic market failure is in every macroeconomics textbook.  See e.g. "tragedy of the commons" or "free rider problem".  Such failures can even happen in a micro context, for example the Prisoner's Dilemma or the (discovered in 1970 by Amartya Sen, helping him win the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics).

I've never said there's no such thing as massive government failure.  What I say is that we have existence proofs of how government failure can be limited and reduced in cases involving multiple decades and entire continents and hundreds of millions of people and multi-trillion-dollar economies and history's highest population densities and history's highest living standards and history's greatest inter-society disparities in living standards and history's cheapest transportation technologies and history's most destructive weapons technologies.  By contrast, the proposed existence proofs for limiting market failure under anarchism are a few medieval societies that come up short by at least four orders of magnitude on every single criterion I listed above.

America is surely the freest, most prosperous, and most secure society in human history. Even so, we have detailed, redundant, and current empirical evidence backing up the mainstream findings of modern economic science about how libertarian reforms within the state's 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.

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 complain 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 (viz., everywhere there ever has been organized crime or protection rackets), the only purported successes advanced for the theory involve just thousands of 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.

I don't say we should give government "control over a big portion of our lives".  I'm a minarchist, not a bigarchist.  I want to completely abolish the government's control over healthcare, education, banking, housing, agriculture, entertainment, employment, etc.  I believe the only role for government authority is to protect life, liberty, and property, keeping the market as free as possible from initiated force.  That's a political vision that (unlike anarcholibertarianism) is completely consistent with both mainstream economics and America's constitutional heritage. Anarchists should nevertheless support that vision, because a small government is easier to abolish than a big one.

Contra Paulie's bargaining strategy above, we won't get to a smaller government by asking to abolish government.  That's like thinking you can get the best price from a car dealer by asking for a free car.