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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Re: [LongThread] anarchy vs. minarchy - burden of proof

Roderick Long wrote:
BH) hundreds of millions in population; continental geographic extent (BH
RL) Population of what?  Extent of what? (RL
I hoped this was obvious: of the geographic region for which you want the LPUS to advocate statelessness (or at least state powerlessness).  I repeat:  "Anarcholibertarians ask for a complete overturning of how the American 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."
RL) [nuclear ballistic] missiles have states both as their producers and as their primary targets. (RL
Obviously, there aren't any anarchic societies around for nuclear aggressors to target.  Not existing is indeed a clever strategy for avoiding nuclear blackmail. :-)
RL)  Nor, again, do you say why these would pose more of a problem for anarchy than for government. (RL
I'm of course implicitly referring to the public goods argument for provision of deterrence against nuclear aggression -- something none of history's toy anarchies have ever had to worry about providing.
BH) coasts accessible to aggressive navies capable of seaborne invasion (BH
RL) Iceland and Ireland don't have accessible coasts?  (RL
They didn't have to worry about the sort of asymmetric seaborne military technology that, for example, allowed Pizarro to conquer the Inca Empire with just 168 marines, or allowed Commodore Perry to coerce Japan with just 8 gunboats. The item above this referred to nuclear weapons, and the one below referred to "armored mechanized armies".  To connect the dots for you, I've changed this item to: "coasts accessible to aggressive navies using e.g. steel armor, rifled cannons, turbine propulsion".
BH) borders accessible to aggressive armored mechanized armies (BH
RL)  Nor, again, do you say why these would pose more of a problem for anarchy than for government (RL
It is of course a standard argument against anarchism that an anarchic region would be subject to invasion by aggressors due the public goods problem of providing "national" (i.e. regional) defense.  None of history's toy anarchies ever had to worry about panzers.  My list of course isn't intended to be a detailed rehearsal of this argument, but surely you're aware the argument exists.  Instead, my list is an inventory of the deficiencies of the parade of historical toy anarchies.  When your parade can fill all these gaps, you might have a historical case that could persuade America to go stateless. Until then, not so much.
RL) I keep waiting to hear why these are supposed to be more of a problem for anarchy than for government, but you still haven't given a single argument. (RL
And I keep waiting for you to name a single one of history's toy anarchies that have ever confronted any of these 17 issues.  Each of them is being solved in some fashion by America's imperfect state framework, and I see an incremental (though arduous) path via the political process toward making these solutions more libertarian.  If you want me to instead raise the black flag of anarchy, you're going to have to muster a better argument than "huh?" in response to these 17 issues.
BH)  antibiotics whose overuse creates drug-resistant super-germs (BH

RL)  And what about Godzilla?  You didn't mention Godzilla.  This is just getting silly. (RL
What's silly is to compare a cartoon monster to a serious problem of negative externalities with no market solution anywhere in sight.  From the abstract of a recent paper on the subject: "In response to the intensive use of antibiotics since their discovery in the 1930s, bacteria increasingly have evolved resistance to these critical medications. Because of this evolutionary process, antibiotics have an unusual characteristic that gives rise to a negative externality: Current use erodes their future usefulness. Society is squandering the limited supply of this precious resource for low-value uses, such as treating minor infections. The price of this profligacy? Patients in the future may die from bacterial infections that become resistant to all antibiotics.  This negative externality is a market failure [...]"

"May die" understates the case.  People die every day from infections that used to be more treatable by modern antibiotics than they are now.  You educate yourself about the problem at And if you know of people who are getting killed by Godzilla, please update the page at
RL) And it looks like your problem is not just with anarchism but with free markets and limited government generally. (RL
No, limited government is what I favor; you anarchists are the ones who have a "problem" with government.  I favor markets being maximally free from aggression, while you only seem to worry about markets being free from state-sponsored aggression.  (See, I can match you straw man for straw man.  How fun.)
BH) It's simply question-begging to assume that a stateless America would just be America-sans-bureaucrats (BH
RL)  And who's assuming that?  (RL
You  seem to make that assumption, or at least invite that inference, when you write: "The empirical/historical evidence is that when one compares stateless and state-ridden societies at comparable levels of economic and social development, the stateless societies tend to be significantly more peaceful and more prosperous."  Again, your stateless-society examples miss the mark by four orders of magnitude in terms of population and population density, and don't even register a data point when it comes to many kinds of negative externalities that plague modern industrialized society.
BH) you have zero data points for any theory that states are just post-hoc fleas latching onto a pre-existing large and prosperous stateless society.  That's never happened, anywhere, anytime. (BH

RL)  Ever read the history of Engalnd? (RL
I can't even find "Engalnd" on a map. :-)  What are you claiming was the population and per-capita GDP of "stateless" England when a state latched onto it, and how do those two figures compare to what they are now?  I'm eager to hear just how much the English flea-state has sucked out of the anarchotopia it found -- and also why that anarchotopia couldn't defend itself in the first place.
RL) on the "17 points" -- suppose no anarchist society has had to deal with these.  Okay.  Then by the same logic no minarchist society -- no libertarian society of any kind -- has had to deal with these either.  So again, how is your argument not a rejection of libertarianism generally, not just of anarchism? (RL
The solutions I favor for these 17 problems not unlike those advocated by the Cato Policy handbook, and are usually variations on those that already are working in America and elsewhere.  You again seem to be defining "libertarian" in terms of absolute abstinence from anything that a Rothbardian might call force initiation.
BH) Your point would have more force if you were interested in explaining how your point of view wouldn't again make non-anarchists into second-class citizens of the party. (BH
RL) Um .... what are you talking about? (RL
OK, if your computer can't follow HTTP links, then allow me to cut and paste:  The Dallas Accord evolved into an effective veto power for anarchists over any Platform statement that didn't uphold anarchist abolitionist principles. By contrast, minarchists had no equivalent veto power over the subsequent accretion of abolitionist Platform statements that conflicted with their own small-government principles. What the Dallas Accord became was a deal in which anarchists got to veto all Platform content they disagree with, while minarchists got to veto only the one statement that the empty shell of the state will be discarded once we're done hollowing it out. The Dallas Accord was struck when the LP had a 2500-word platform, but in the subsequent decades it bloated into a 14,000-word monument to zero-government abolitionism.
RL) I assume you're aware that the phrase "initiation of force" is, and was at the time the Pledge was written, one of the standard ways (derived from Rand) of expressing the non-aggression principle. (RL
Asked and answered, in the second and final paragraphs of the pledge essay I already pointed you to.
RL) I see unargued assertions on that page. (RL
Every argument consists of a series of assertions.  If you're just trying to say "nuh uh", you're wasting keystrokes. My arguments there stand unanswered.
RL) I never said -- in fact I explicitly denied -- that the pledge was a loyalty oath to anarcholibertarianism. (RL
Then what, pray tell, is the difference between anarcholibertarianism and an absolute abstention from all force initiation?  How does your interpretation of the Pledge leave room for one to disagree with anarcholibertarianism?

I'm starting to suspect that by "minarchist" you just mean a force-initiation abstentionist who, like Rand, doesn't realize that this implies anarchism.  I use "minarchist" more broadly, to include libertarians willing to reluctantly accept a minimal level of state authority (e.g. to tax land value, or to enforce standards of due process) if it is strictly needed to protect against aggression.  It sounds like you don't consider such people to be libertarians at all -- or at least you interpret the Pledge as excluding them from the LP.