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On minarchism

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John James Posted: Thu, Jan 10 2013 5:16 PM

I came across this nice write up of minarchism when going through the Top 10 Causes of Minarchism comics.  Thought it was worth a share (emphasis mine):

I would just like to take a moment to clarify something since there seem to be a lot of different interpretations of what I mean when I poke fun at “minarchists”.

When I use the term “minarchism”, I’m referring to an individual belief system, someone who believes a small government is necessary, and perhaps evil. A minarchist believes that government has a role in protecting life, liberty, and property. By itself, that wouldn’t be worthy of ridicule, but where it falls apart is when they insist that it must be an authoritarian monopoly on violence, i.e. that it must exert a supreme authority over a certain geographic region and individuals cannot choose to act apart from it. By its very nature, such a thing will never protect life, liberty, and property. Such a thing is inherently contradictory to such values. If, on the other hand, you can let go of the idea of it being a monopoly, then it is subject to the controls of the free market and regains the accountability that’s essential for it to ever do more good than harm.

Secondly, while I have no faith in politics to get us any degree of freedom in the big scheme of things, I have nothing against a gradual approach. Agorism takes a gradual approach and I believe in agorism. I’m all for taking little bites out of the elephant if it works. In fact, I am concerned that existing governments may rapidly collapse due to their own incompetence and some degree of chaos will inevitably ensue because most people remain in a child-like state of subservience and don’t know how to live as adults. They have no idea how to function outside the rule of governments. However, I don’t think it’s something we should try to induce and I certainly don’t believe in using violence to overthrow the government. I don’t think it’s either right or viable. I think we need to be building up voluntary versions of the services we currently ascribe to monopoly governments while at the same time acting as wrenches by refusing to comply with existing violent governments. Something along those lines is what I believe will make gradual progress toward more individual freedom.

Most importantly, both minarchism and anarchism are individual points of view, or philosophies about how to maintain civilized society. It’s only when individuals evolve that society will make progress. When I hear someone talk about whether anarchy is possible, I cringe. This is where I differ with many anarchists. Society cannot exist in a state of anarchy because it’s a fiercely individualist philosophy. It is possible for YOU to achieve it because it happens when YOU personally transcend the indoctrination that will allow YOU to stop being a cog in the machine of violent governments, and to at least begin to consider becoming a wrench. Once you understand that, then you realize how silly it is to think of minarchy as a step on the way to anarchy. Anarchy, as a philosophy, is the first and most crucial step that individuals must make in order for all of us to make progress toward a smaller and less intrusive government. As long as you see government as a necessary thing, as the protector of your liberties, you are seriously deceived and have little hope of making any progress toward even shrinking it.

But the good thing about minarchists is their hearts are in the right place. They are the hope of the future. Almost every anarchist was a minarchist somewhere along the way. So if you’re a minarchist and you’re offended, just realize I’m also kind of poking fun of myself. It wasn’t that long ago that I was where you are.

 

Related:

Why Minarchists are the Enemy

I'm in a huge dilemma between Minarchism and Anarchism

Personal feelings on Minarchism

 

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Wheylous replied on Thu, Jan 10 2013 10:28 PM

I empathize with this guy, but I can't help but remember that abolitionists in the 19th century didn't fight for the right of slaves to get weekends off :\

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John James replied on Thu, Jan 10 2013 10:34 PM

I don't understand.  It sounds like you're under the impression that the guy is defending minarchism.

 

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Wheylous replied on Thu, Jan 10 2013 10:38 PM

No, but he is defending gradualism.

I appreciate his concern about a cultural shift - I'd like that too. But I am confused about why he says gradualism is good while rejecting minarchy.

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Wheylous:
No, but he is defending gradualism.

What's your problem with the gradualism he describes?

 

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When I use the term “minarchism”, I’m referring to an individual belief system, someone who believes a small government is necessary, and perhaps evil. A minarchist believes that government has a role in protecting life, liberty, and property. By itself, that wouldn’t be worthy of ridicule, but where it falls apart is when they insist that it must be an authoritarian monopoly on violence, i.e. that it must exert a supreme authority over a certain geographic region and individuals cannot choose to act apart from it. By its very nature, such a thing will never protect life, liberty, and property. Such a thing is inherently contradictory to such values. If, on the other hand, you can let go of the idea of it being a monopoly, then it is subject to the controls of the free market and regains the accountability that’s essential for it to ever do more good than harm.

The irony of the bolded statement is that it is a perfect description of a property holder in a stateless society. 

they said we would have an unfair fun advantage

"enough about human rights. what about whale rights?" -moondog
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gotlucky replied on Fri, Jan 11 2013 9:31 AM

What's really weird is that it's not ironic when you read it in context.

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No, its still ironic.

If the author pointed out that the difference between a monopoly of violence held by a property owner and a monopoly of violence held by the state was a matter of scale or the just acquisition of property, then I wouldn't have said anything.  But the write-up simply damns any monopoly of violence as a bad in and of itself.  That he doesn't bring up scale or just property suggests that he either (A) is unaware that a monopoly of violence still exists in a stateless society between an owner and his land or (B) is aware, but doesn't see why it should matter to minarchists.

 

they said we would have an unfair fun advantage

"enough about human rights. what about whale rights?" -moondog
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gotlucky replied on Fri, Jan 11 2013 11:06 AM

When I use the term “minarchism”, I’m referring to an individual belief system, someone who believes a small government is necessary, and perhaps evil. A minarchist believes that government has a role in protecting life, liberty, and property. By itself, that wouldn’t be worthy of ridicule, but where it falls apart is when they insist that it must be an authoritarian monopoly on violence, i.e. that it must exert a supreme authority over a certain geographic region and individuals cannot choose to act apart from it. By its very nature, such a thing will never protect life, liberty, and property. Such a thing is inherently contradictory to such values. If, on the other hand, you can let go of the idea of it being a monopoly, then it is subject to the controls of the free market and regains the accountability that’s essential for it to ever do more good than harm.

It's pretty clear that this cannot apply to individuals. You regain accountability to yourself if you let go of your monopoly of your property? By shedding your control over your property, you will now be able to "protect life, liberty, and property"? I didn't know that we had to abandon our property in order to protect it.

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idol replied on Fri, Jan 11 2013 11:19 AM

A minarchist believes that government has a role in protecting life, liberty, and property. By itself, that wouldn’t be worthy of ridicule, but where it falls apart is when they insist that it must be an authoritarian monopoly on violence, i.e. that it must exert a supreme authority over a certain geographic region and individuals cannot choose to act apart from it. By its very nature, such a thing will never protect life, liberty, and property. Such a thing is inherently contradictory to such values. If, on the other hand, you can let go of the idea of it being a monopoly, then it is subject to the controls of the free market and regains the accountability that’s essential for it to ever do more good than harm.

There are so many assumptions here that are not at all self-evident.

First off, let's imagine that there is no monopoly on force. I imagine some companies would become more successful than others - what is now stopping these companies from using their weapons on people to extort money from them, like a tyrannical quasi-state?

Thus, I completely reject the idea that force suppliers are more accountable in the free market. Institutional incentives in constitutional government funded by donations would make it extremely unlikely for that government to aggress it's own people - in other words, politicians would have a common action problem with regards to becoming tyrannical so long as the population was mostly libertarian. If politicians decided to use force in order to menace, there would be a very strong incentive for these same politicians to defect from that position because there is no guarantee that they will succeed with extortion, and if other politicians decide to back out they will be quickly voted out because government institutions will not have been replaced with dictatorship. Furthermore, there may not be literal competition but there exists the threat of competition: the people can overthrow the government and replace it.

Force is very different from most goods supplied by the free market. The protection from force is the very thing that justifies government in the first place - protection from force is a public good that is quite difficult to fund. I read Murphy on this issue and some of his suggestions seem quite...fanciful. For example, his extreme situation where companies would literally announce to aggressors where they can attack unprovoked. I don't see how that would work if I paid for the service and my neighbor didn't - how can I be defended without my neighbor being defended? A monopoly on force in a minarchist state seems far more likely to protect life, liberty, and property and it seems far more accountable to me than the free market alternative.

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You're misunderstanding my point.  The author basically says that the problem with government is that it holds a monopoly of violence over a geographic region.  So I say "well if that's the problem with government, then it should also be a problem with anarchy, because land holders also hold a monopoly of violence over their own land."  Obviously as you point out, this isn't the case.  Hence, he misidentifies the actual problem with the state (and it is ironic because the very thing that he picks is essense of property -- the right to exclude with force).  That his conclusion doesn't follow from the premise doesn't mean that I took the premise out of context, it means that the premise was incorrect.

they said we would have an unfair fun advantage

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h.k. replied on Fri, Jan 11 2013 3:01 PM

mikachusetts:

You're misunderstanding my point.  The author basically says that the problem with government is that it holds a monopoly of violence over a geographic region.  So I say "well if that's the problem with government, then it should also be a problem with anarchy, because land holders also hold a monopoly of violence over their own land."  Obviously as you point out, this isn't the case.  Hence, he misidentifies the actual problem with the state (and it is ironic because the very thing that he picks is essense of property -- the right to exclude with force).  That his conclusion doesn't follow from the premise doesn't mean that I took the premise out of context, it means that the premise was incorrect.

 

 

That doesn't make sense to me. So then cereal companies hold a "monopoly" on cereal? An entire market cannot hold a monopoly on anything if there are various firms competing for your services. Your economic definitions are dubious.

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mikachusetts:
a monopoly of violence still exists in a stateless society between an owner and his land or (B) is aware, but doesn't see why it should matter to minarchists.

So, in a stateless society, as a property owner, I could invite someone into my home, and then shoot them in the face...with zero repercussions?  Having a hard time buying that.

 

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That doesn't make sense to me. So then cereal companies hold a "monopoly" on cereal? An entire market cannot hold a monopoly on anything if there are various firms competing for your services. Your economic definitions are dubious.

I didm't say anything close to that. 

So, in a stateless society, as a property owner, I could invite someone into my home, and then shoot them in the face...with zero repercussions?  Having a hard time buying that.

No.  This wouldn't apply under a state either.

Monopoly on the legal use of violence in a geographic region means only only person or body is legally permitted to initiate any kind of force within that region.  It DOES NOT MEAN that you can use any amount of force you wish free from any sort of repercussion.

 

they said we would have an unfair fun advantage

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h.k. replied on Fri, Jan 11 2013 3:35 PM

What you're saying doesn't make sense. Land owners aren't part of one hive mind or gang so your interpretation is questionable. Monopoly refers to the mono-centric legal system in a state.

 

 

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idol:

First off, let's imagine that there is no monopoly on force. I imagine some companies would become more successful than others - what is now stopping these companies from using their weapons on people to extort money from them, like a tyrannical quasi-state?

Thus, I completely reject the idea that force suppliers are more accountable in the free market. Institutional incentives in constitutional government funded by donations would make it extremely unlikely for that government to aggress it's own people - in other words, politicians would have a common action problem with regards to becoming tyrannical so long as the population was mostly libertarian. If politicians decided to use force in order to menace, there would be a very strong incentive for these same politicians to defect from that position because there is no guarantee that they will succeed with extortion, and if other politicians decide to back out they will be quickly voted out because government institutions will not have been replaced with dictatorship. Furthermore, there may not be literal competition but there exists the threat of competition: the people can overthrow the government and replace it.

Everything you just said in that second paragraph makes virtually the same assumptions that you apparently reject in the first one.

 

Force is very different from most goods supplied by the free market. The protection from force is the very thing that justifies government in the first place - protection from force is a public good that is quite difficult to fund. I read Murphy on this issue and some of his suggestions seem quite...fanciful. For example, his extreme situation where companies would literally announce to aggressors where they can attack unprovoked. I don't see how that would work if I paid for the service and my neighbor didn't - how can I be defended without my neighbor being defended? A monopoly on force in a minarchist state seems far more likely to protect life, liberty, and property and it seems far more accountable to me than the free market alternative.

...because it's had such a great track record of that so far.

—Especially if we ignore the fact illustrated so eloquently in this most badass of images...

 

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idol replied on Fri, Jan 11 2013 5:14 PM

 

Same assumptions? Huh? The assumptions I rejected were:

A) That government by its nature will never protect life, liberty and property.

B) That government is inherently contradictory to protecting life, liberty and property.

C) That the free market is essential for force to regain accountability.

In other words, those 3 points were asserted without evidence.

 

On your other point, communism is almost the polar opposite of minarchism...its foundation is based on the belief that property is theft so obviously it is not in the business of protecting property. Equating minarchism with communism because they're both forms of government is like equating Ron Paul with Adolf Hitler because they're both politicians.

 

I also explicitly referred to government funded by donations, so there is no stealing of property there.

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gotlucky replied on Fri, Jan 11 2013 5:46 PM

Feel free to view the links I provided.

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Malachi replied on Fri, Jan 11 2013 6:09 PM
First off, let's imagine that there is no monopoly on force. I imagine some companies would become more successful than others - what is now stopping these companies from using their weapons on people to extort money from them, like a tyrannical quasi-state?
other people with guns, the calculation problem, the fact that its actually less efficient to make war than to trade, the list goes on. Whats the profit in "using their weapons on people to extort money from them" when youre already getting paid willingly by them to, you know, protect them from tyrants?
Thus, I completely reject the idea that force suppliers are more accountable in the free market.
how is that at all justified? John James is right, you made almost the exact same assumption as the one you reject.
Institutional incentives in constitutional government funded by donations would make it extremely unlikely for that government to aggress it's own people - in other words, politicians would have a common action problem with regards to becoming tyrannical so long as the population was mostly libertarian.
how is that different from a "company" that works for its "customers" who pay them voluntarily? Are they all mushy about it and dont have an explicit contract? What exactly are you describing? Be specific.
If politicians decided to use force in order to menace, there would be a very strong incentive for these same politicians to defect from that position because there is no guarantee that they will succeed with extortion, and if other politicians decide to back out they will be quickly voted out because government institutions will not have been replaced with dictatorship. Furthermore, there may not be literal competition but there exists the threat of competition: the people can overthrow the government and replace it.
ok so how come this is going to happen with your "government" but the exact opposite would supposedly happen with things that arent governments, like companies?
Force is very different from most goods supplied by the free market. The protection from force is the very thing that justifies government in the first place - protection from force is a public good that is quite difficult to fund.
protection from aggression, i.e. defense, is a private good. If youre being finger-raped on the side of the road in texas by a law enforcement officer, its not really any better or worse than being finger-raped by a biker in a bar. it would be a value, not a fact. But the aggression is a fact.
I read Murphy on this issue and some of his suggestions seem quite...fanciful. For example, his extreme situation where companies would literally announce to aggressors where they can attack unprovoked. I don't see how that would work if I paid for the service and my neighbor didn't - how can I be defended without my neighbor being defended?
Your neighbors get invaded. The invaders are extremely careful not to even give the appearance of aggression towards you or your property. They even liason with your private defense agency, so your pda actually already has a hostage, one of their guys, and radio communication, so that if one of their guys even mistakenly appears aggressive towards your property, they can call him on the radio and chew his ass. Then the aggressors leave with your neighbors valuables. Satisfied?
A monopoly on force in a minarchist state seems far more likely to protect life, liberty, and property and it seems far more accountable to me than the free market alternative.
you havent justified this statement with anything you have written. Youre literally arguing by assertion and from ignorance.
Keep the faith, Strannix. -Casey Ryback, Under Siege (Steven Seagal)
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idol replied on Fri, Jan 11 2013 7:56 PM

Malachi:
other people with guns, the calculation problem, the fact that its actually less efficient to make war than to trade, the list goes on. Whats the profit in "using their weapons on people to extort money from them" when youre already getting paid willingly by them to, you know, protect them from tyrants?
You could fairly trade in one region and extort in another. You don't necessarily extort from your customers.
how is that at all justified? John James is right, you made almost the exact same assumption as the one you reject.
It's justified because force suppliers could have a monopoly on force over a given region, making them unaccountable.
how is that different from a "company" that works for its "customers" who pay them voluntarily? Are they all mushy about it and dont have an explicit contract? What exactly are you describing? Be specific.
I think my response to the next segment answers this; if not I will try to clarify.
ok so how come this is going to happen with your "government" but the exact opposite would supposedly happen with things that arent governments, like companies?
Sure. A common action problem occurs when a group of people must cooperate (in the US for example this is hundreds of politicians in Congress) in order to accomplish a task where there are large incentives to defect and not cooperate. To keep their jobs politicians must secure votes; a tyrannical politician would quickly lose his job. This does not occur in a company because there is no incentive to defect. If, say, a member of the executive board of a company decides to defect, they would simply be fired. Also, government does not build up capital the way companies do.
protection from aggression, i.e. defense, is a private good. If youre being finger-raped on the side of the road in texas by a law enforcement officer, its not really any better or worse than being finger-raped by a biker in a bar. it would be a value, not a fact. But the aggression is a fact.
No, the police and especially the military are not private goods. When the police arrest a criminal, the entire neighborhood is safer, it's not just the individual who was directly affected by the crime. This is more obvious with the military, which obviously cannot protect specific members of society while denying that protection to others in the event of foreign invasion.
Your neighbors get invaded. The invaders are extremely careful not to even give the appearance of aggression towards you or your property. They even liason with your private defense agency, so your pda actually already has a hostage, one of their guys, and radio communication, so that if one of their guys even mistakenly appears aggressive towards your property, they can call him on the radio and chew his ass. Then the aggressors leave with your neighbors valuables. Satisfied?
I was thinking in terms of a foreign invasion of a city, so I should have said that specifically.

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idol replied on Fri, Jan 11 2013 8:06 PM

 Feel free to view the links I provided.

I'll read and respond to them when I have some more time on my hands; hopefully that means tomorrow. 

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Malachi replied on Fri, Jan 11 2013 8:31 PM
You could fairly trade in one region and extort in another. You don't necessarily extort from your customers.
Thats what happens with a monopoly, they play favorites. With competition in protection services the ones subject to extortion could hire another protection agency. Those wars are costly, that being the reason they wouldnt happen often.
It's justified because force suppliers could have a monopoly on force over a given region, making them unaccountable.
yah, minarchism. Competition in protection services isnt a monpoly.
Sure. A common action problem occurs when a group of people must cooperate (in the US for example this is hundreds of politicians in Congress) in order to accomplish a task where there are large incentives to defect and not cooperate. To keep their jobs politicians must secure votes; a tyrannical politician would quickly lose his job.
why why and why? We have lots of evidence that this doesnt happen. If it was a minarchist state why would you even need a congress and legislature? Theres nothing to legislate! Youre employing miraculous thinking.
This does not occur in a company because there is no incentive to defect. If, say, a member of the executive board of a company decides to defect, they would simply be fired. Also, government does not build up capital the way companies do.
there is plenty of reason to defect if your company orders you to commit a crime. But getting finger raped by someone with a legal monopoly on force isnt a "crime" even though I hope we can agree thats unfortunate.
No, the police and especially the military are not private goods.
I didnt say they were.
When the police arrest a criminal, the entire neighborhood is safer, it's not just the individual who was directly affected by the crime.
Positive externalities arent a license to rob people. I'm sure at this point you'll default to a govt funded by donations so in that case it all depends on what you mean with a govt funded voluntarily. If it maintains a forceful monopoly it is a criminal aggressor. If it forbids me from contracting for protection services with anyone I wish, then it means to be a slaveowner. If it does none of the above criminal acts and merely "looks out" for any sort of harm, I could say they are a good neighbor but without some sort of contractual relationship, even verbal, it cannot act on my behalf. Those ruffians bearing arms that you shot were my friends. That sort of thing.
This is more obvious with the military, which obviously cannot protect specific members of society while denying that protection to others in the event of foreign invasion.
sure it can. I believe the paragraph I already typed answers this.
I was thinking in terms of a foreign invasion of a city, so I should have said that specifically.
again, I'm pretty sure I already answered this. If the incipient invasion of the "city" threatens one customer, the private defense agency will protect...that one custo er to the best of their ability. If that means assassinating the hostile general, or negotiating with him, or destroying the whole army, or with the (quite necessarily, and always) permission of the customer, a temporary relocation to a safer locale, thats what it means. And, the chance that if a bunch of your neighbors are a customer of a pda, that the pda will destroy the invading army, is a positive externality that reduces the cost of living, increasing prosperity.
Keep the faith, Strannix. -Casey Ryback, Under Siege (Steven Seagal)
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