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Minarchism or ministatism?

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Dennis Lee Wilson Posted: Tue, Jan 15 2008 12:23 PM

 

Minarchist?? Actually ministatist is more appropriate!

 

When I first encountered the made-up word “minarchist”, I had difficultly understanding what it meant. It certainly was not glaringly obvious. Eventually it became clear that most writers meant a person or position advocating some form of limited state.

 

Yesterday while reading an article by Mark Davis at http://www.strike-the-root.com/81/davis/davis1.html  I discovered what minarchists have been trying to obfuscate with their made-up word, namely that MINISTATIST is a more appropriate and exact word for their position.

 

Will you join me in this entirely appropriate correction and help stamp out “minarchist” [the word] wherever you encounter it?

 

Dennis Wilson

“Government is an UNnecessary Evil”

“The Market for Liberty” by Linda & Morris Tannehill http://www.mises.org/store/product1.aspx?Product_ID=302&Category_ID=0&

 

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DennisLeeWilson:
Minarchist?? Actually ministatist is more appropriate!
Dennis is just promoting his "minarchists are statists" propaganda.
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Niccolò replied on Tue, Jan 15 2008 8:59 PM

libertarian:
DennisLeeWilson:
Minarchist?? Actually ministatist is more appropriate!
Dennis is just promoting his "minarchists are statists" propaganda.

 

As if they aren't.

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Of course minarchists are statists. The term statist is a label, mostly employed by anarchists, refering to anyone who supports the state to any degree. Minarchists just so happen to be "minimal statists".

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Solredime replied on Wed, Jan 16 2008 8:47 AM
I agree, Minarchism seems to imply a minimum amount of anarchy....which is the opposite of what Minarchism is usually thought to mean. Ministatism would make more sense.
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hugonz replied on Wed, Jan 23 2008 9:59 AM

Brainpolice:
Minarchists just so happen to be "minimal statists".
 

I'd like to add: "minimal" means the least possible. The least possible might as well be zero, the problem is that most minarchists have preconceived ideas of what the market cannot do, and will not be willing to try to have private courts of private streets, for instance. Then it is not proved that it is a minimal state, but only a smaller state.

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Grant replied on Wed, Jan 23 2008 10:10 AM

Brainpolice:
Of course minarchists are statists. The term statist is a label, mostly employed by anarchists, refering to anyone who supports the state to any degree. Minarchists just so happen to be "minimal statists".

Ehh, most minarchists (such as Milton Friedman, who said he'd rather be an anarchist) only "support" states because they see no other alternative. A lot of people just don't think anarchy is really possible, so they work for better and smaller government. You can argue that their reasoning is flawed, but its not accurate to say they all support states. They simply support minimal states over the other (more statist) means they see as being available to them to preserve freedom. Or put another way, their actions reveal an ordinal preference of minarchy > leviathan, but thats it.

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 Didn't SEK3 make up the word "minarchist" to tease Rothbard?

The Anarchists are simply unterrified Jeffersonian Democrats. They believe that 'the best government is that which governs least,' and that which governs least is no government at all.
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Grant:

Brainpolice:
Of course minarchists are statists. The term statist is a label, mostly employed by anarchists, refering to anyone who supports the state to any degree. Minarchists just so happen to be "minimal statists".

Ehh, most minarchists (such as Milton Friedman, who said he'd rather be an anarchist) only "support" states because they see no other alternative. A lot of people just don't think anarchy is really possible, so they work for better and smaller government. You can argue that their reasoning is flawed, but its not accurate to say they all support states. They simply support minimal states over the other (more statist) means they see as being available to them to preserve freedom. Or put another way, their actions reveal an ordinal preference of minarchy > leviathan, but thats it.

I don't see what's so hard to understand about the fact that a "minimal state" is...well...still a state. Of course minarchists support states. They ideologically believe one is either necessary are inevitable or both. If the term "statist" refers to anyone who ideologically supports a state at any level, then minarchists are statists by definition. They're just the most moderate kind of statist possible. However, when I was a minarchist I used the term "statist" to refer to "big government" in contrast to "small government", so I suppose there is a different context to the word in minarchist jargon.

Of course, these days I would argue that a minarchist state is a floating abstraction, a contradiction in terms, an impossibility, a utopia. In retrospect, my entire time as a minarchist was spent in a state of cogntive dissonance, with me accepting and spouting anarchistic principles while refusing to take them to their logical conclusion, making arguements that basically debunked the very notion of a need for a state while still proclaiming a need for a state, professing positions that worked against my own in other areas, constantly getting accused of being an anarchist and having to backpeddle and explain away an inconsistant position.

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hugonz replied on Wed, Jan 23 2008 12:25 PM

Brainpolice:
Of course, these days I would argue that a minarchist state is a floating abstraction, a contradiction in terms, an impossibility, a utopia.
 

 

Totally agree. Evidence and history tells me that a minimal state is more utopic (in the negative sense) than a free market anarch (The Fully Voluntary Society) 

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Niccolò replied on Wed, Jan 23 2008 1:10 PM

Grant:

Brainpolice:
Of course minarchists are statists. The term statist is a label, mostly employed by anarchists, refering to anyone who supports the state to any degree. Minarchists just so happen to be "minimal statists".

Ehh, most minarchists (such as Milton Friedman, who said he'd rather be an anarchist) only "support" states because they see no other alternative. A lot of people just don't think anarchy is really possible, so they work for better and smaller government. You can argue that their reasoning is flawed, but its not accurate to say they all support states. They simply support minimal states over the other (more statist) means they see as being available to them to preserve freedom. Or put another way, their actions reveal an ordinal preference of minarchy > leviathan, but thats it.

 

 

So other than semantics, how is the charge incorrect? I'm certain that almost ALL statists merely see, "no other possibilities" than their perfect world. If you asked Billary Clinton, I'm sure it would say that it would LOVE to be an Anarchist, but because only universal healthcare, an outright banning of guns, and state-socialism can work, well... then they're just expressing a desire for a necessary evil.


Come on. Don't try to play big-brother for the minarchists, they know better, but they merely choose to refuse to accept it. 

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While certainly an Objectivist-anarchist, I don't necessarily think minarchism is utopian or impossible. One could argue that post-Revolutionary War America was in a state of minarchy. If anarchism is possible, then minarchism is possible because a rational process of fully decontrolling the American economy would bring us to a minarchist state briefly before finally achieving anarchism. Free-market anarchism is simply much more desirable than minarchism as well as more consistent with the application of rational ethics to rational politics.

I seems though that, in your case as well as in mine and many others, libertarian anarchists were classical liberals, then Objectivists, then they became lured by anarcho-capitalism. It seems the intellectual movement to anarchism from liberalism mirrors the probable real-life movement (if one existed) from a mixed economy to anarchy.

"If we look at the black record of mass murder, exploitation, and tyranny levied on society by governments over the ages, we need not be loath to abandon the Leviathan State and ... try freedom." --Murray Rothbard byreasonandreality.blogspot.com
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Niccolò replied on Wed, Jan 23 2008 7:51 PM

Hard_Money:

While certainly an Objectivist-anarchist, I don't necessarily think minarchism is utopian or impossible.

 

Of course not! But only because it's a relative position.

 

 

Hey guys! Welcome to Minarchy!

 

HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL YYYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH 

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It is a little absurd to say minarchy>leviathan, if one actually knows what Hobbes meant by his leviathan. The leviathan is simply a state powerful enough have the right of death and life over a given territory, for Hobbes the state has to be powerful enough that people will be able to make genuine contracts and because of his conception of nature the state has to keep them in awe like a god. But essentially the function of the night watchman state is the same, while people like Locke had a sunnier view of human nature, their solution is functionally similar to Hobbes' leviathan. Both support an agency with the monopoly on the use of force, to allow contracts to be enforced, but there is just a difference in calculation of the state power required for the task. It is important to note that Hobbes was not for "big government" in any contemporary sense of the term, his view of the raison d'etat is simply to allow for self preservation of each individual, and thus enforcin contracts.

Minarchists are statists, just a particular kind as has been said numerous times already in this thread.  

 

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Grant replied on Thu, Jan 24 2008 11:34 AM

Brainpolice:
I don't see what's so hard to understand about the fact that a "minimal state" is...well...still a state. Of course minarchists support states. They ideologically believe one is either necessary are inevitable or both.

Yes, they support minimal states over the other means available to them. This doesn't indicate any sort of absolute support for the state, so they cannot be said to "support states" any more than a slave who chooses the kindest master is said to "support slavery".

Niccolò:
So other than semantics, how is the charge incorrect? I'm certain that almost ALL statists merely see, "no other possibilities" than their perfect world.

Its the goals of Billary and the minarchist that differ. Minarchist libertarians support states over other options because they believe minimal states are the best way to preserve liberty. Billary just wants power, or at the least doesn't give a damn about liberty.

All I'm saying is that any faults in the logic of libertarian minarchists are positive in nature, not normative. It may seem odd to believe that using a dash of tyranny is the best way to get a lot of liberty, but there are many intstances where peope must make odd compromises to get desired results in complex systems. Honestly, the idea that academics can understand entire societies to the point of being able to dream up how "anarcho-capitalism" (or a constitutional republic, for that matter) would function seems incredibly arrogant to me. I don't think those sorts of efforts have ever succeeded in the past. I'm not saying such things aren't worth trying (I think they are), but just that those people who believe market anarchism would be unstable aren't so clearly wrong. No one will know what would happen in market anarchy until its really tried. I personally believe that there will always be states (extortionists) to some extent, but that market anarchy will create far fewer of them.

Most minarchists I know either just lack imagination, or are more focused on short-term results, not caring about some far-off political change.

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Niccolò replied on Thu, Jan 24 2008 8:45 PM

Grant:

Its the goals of Billary and the minarchist that differ. Minarchist libertarians support states over other options because they believe minimal states are the best way to preserve liberty. Billary just wants power, or at the least doesn't give a damn about liberty.

 

No, I don't think you're right. Billary wants liberty, but also understands that liberty cannot be maintained in anarchy and that, though the government is evil it's a necessary one. 

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hugonz replied on Thu, Jan 24 2008 10:26 PM

Niccolò:

 

No, I don't think you're right. Billary wants liberty, but also understands that liberty cannot be maintained in anarchy and that, though the government is evil it's a necessary one. 

 

As we are all creeping inside Billary's head... I think Billary would love to see liberty, but she thinks she knows better than everyone and central planning is great. Liberty would just get in her way to do what's best for all of us.

 I quote: 

"The other day the oil companies recorded the highest profits in the history of the world. I want to take those profits. And I want to put them into a strategic energy fund... 

 -- Hillary Clinton 

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More than likely, she defines liberty in positive terms, and thus a state is necessary in order to redistribute power and entitlements. The reasoning for why anarchy could not exist functionally in the eyes of a minarchist is certainly different, but there is a similarity in using coercive means to preserve the good.
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Old Hop replied on Fri, Jan 25 2008 6:14 AM

"State" is an abstraction.  There is a difference between government, which arises naturally in all human organizations (neighborhoods, churches, sports teams, businesses...) and "the state" which pursues goals that a more propositional and ideological in nature.

Minarchy (by my reckoning) is a naturally-arising measure of government within the smaller denominations of social groups.  It is natural and therefore legitimate.  The trouble begins, however, when minarchies begin to cluster, then pursue the fancies of the inevitable dreamers within their midst.

Jefferson invented the idea of "ward-republics," influenced in no small measure by the autonomous town structures of southeastern woodland Native American tribes, to force (if I may use that word) Virginian localities to remain local.  Of course, this remained on paper and never went into practice; ergot, the American Leviathan.  There is also in many cultures is a centralizing tendency (the Bible discusses this in the Tower of Babel narrative) that believes collective arrangements to be the surest means of survival and prosperity -- a notable exception being the Native Americans (there are probably others).

 

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Ah yes, the old government vs. state distinction.

Even if I accept such a distinction, I cannot bring myself to agree with the claim that minarchy is a "government" but not a "state", let alone that it is naturally arising. Minarchy is the idea of a minimal state. It still has the fundamental attributes of a state, not some kind of "private government". It is neither natural or legitimate, since it still violates the individual's sovereignty on a fundamental level. If the institution does not violate the individual's sovereignty, then it would do away with both the taxing power and all unjust claims of territorial monopoly. At such a point, it would cease to be a "state" and would be nothing more then a private institution that must compete on its own merits. Call it a "government" if you like, but this is basically a private institution in a market anarchy. But if the institution still has such powers, it is a state by definition. And I would argue that a minarchy is not natural, nor is it possible. Show me one example in history of a truly minimal state that fits the criteria for a minarchy. I don't think any such example exists, because by its own terms minarchy is a floating abstraction, a self-contradictary notion.

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Minarchy is statism. By ceding the moral high ground it makes it so you're just quibbling on how much violence will control your society. 

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Grant replied on Fri, Jan 25 2008 9:26 AM

Niccolò:
No, I don't think you're right. Billary wants liberty, but also understands that liberty cannot be maintained in anarchy and that, though the government is evil it's a necessary one.

I meant negative liberty, which Billary has no interest in.

Brainpolice, the bulk of human history would suggest that states are natural. If we've reached the conclusion that states are undesirable, then what are we to do? I don't think the situation is as simple as some make it out to be.

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Philotomy replied on Fri, Jan 25 2008 9:55 AM

Grant:
...the bulk of human history would suggest that states are natural. If we've reached the conclusion that states are undesirable, then what are we to do? I don't think the situation is as simple as some make it out to be.

This is my quandary.  I've long held Jeffersonian or classical liberal opinions about government, but have only recently started thinking more deeply on the subject.  (As a tangential note, I was prompted by Ron Paul's campaign and his statements about the Fed and the gold standard; one thing led to another, and suddenly I find myself reading Bastiat, von Mises, Rothbard, et al., and experiencing something of a metanoia.)  Pursued to its logical end, individual liberty seems to demand a "private law society" where even functions like courts, infrastructure, and defense are maintained by "freely financed and competing individuals and agencies."   There are many obvious difficulties, and I simply don't know if market anarchism would work.  However, justifying a degree of coercive authority to the state as a matter of practicality (i.e. "it's unjust, but useful") seems rather contemptible.    

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I am a minarchist. I am not for or against anarchy. There is no simulation.
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Grant replied on Fri, Jan 25 2008 11:22 AM

Philotomy:
...justifying a degree of coercive authority to the state as a matter of practicality (i.e. "it's unjust, but useful") seems rather contemptible.

I am not attempting to justify it (I generally find arguing over anything normative to be useless). I'm just saying that states are like the stars: they exist, and there is no reason to believe they are going to go away in the foreseeable future. What are we going to do about them?

In some cases it does simply make more sense to pay protection money to an extortionist than it does to fight back. That doesn't mean its right or just, but thats often how things turn out. Maybe its the same way with states? I really have no idea.

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hugonz replied on Fri, Jan 25 2008 11:06 PM

Grant:

 

I am not attempting to justify it (I generally find arguing over anything normative to be useless). I'm just saying that states are like the stars: they exist, and there is no reason to believe they are going to go away in the foreseeable future. What are we going to do about them?

 

 Trim it down in any way possible, up to 100% (that's where minarchists differ)

I was once an Emerngency Medical Technician, and it was said that "Dead heroes don't save lives." It's the same with the State, "Dead libertarians won't erase the state." That's why we have to keep paying protection money until we attain critical mass, then we stop. 

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Niccolò replied on Fri, Jan 25 2008 11:13 PM

Grant:

I meant negative liberty, which Billary has no interest in.



It's not a positive liberty to say that all should receive the "benefits" of a single monopoly?


Yes, positive liberties should be limited, but they're still necessary - otherwise you might have... ANARCHY! Surprise


Grant:

Brainpolice, the bulk of human history would suggest that states are natural. If we've reached the conclusion that states are undesirable, then what are we to do? I don't think the situation is as simple as some make it out to be.

 

 Natural does not mean ordinary or consistent. Natuarl means as originated. 

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Philotomy replied on Sat, Jan 26 2008 3:58 AM

Grant:
I am not attempting to justify it (I generally find arguing over anything normative to be useless).I'm just saying that states are like the stars: they exist, and there is no reason to believe they are going to go away in the foreseeable future. What are we going to do about them?

(To clarify, my comment about it being contemptible wasn't directed at you, personally; I was speaking generally about my thoughts on the matter.)  As for what to do about states, I agree with the previous post that we should try to limit them and make them as "small" as possible (with "100% gone" being the ideal). 


 

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Clarify: I am no uniarchist (Objectivists are uniarchists). That is, I am not for a big unified state with small government. I am a multiarchist. I support many tiny states competing against each other.
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 Hey. Don't stop at the state level! Counties have governments too. Why should I be forced to live under a state AND a county government? (And of course, there are also parrishes,  cities and school districts...)

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hugonz replied on Mon, Jan 28 2008 11:18 PM

 Do they compete in the same geographical area? Or they expect people to vote with their feet, having each state exclusive jurisdiction over an area? 

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hugonz:

 Do they compete in the same geographical area? Or they expect people to vote with their feet, having each state exclusive jurisdiction over an area? 

I prefer tiny dictatorial states competing against each other (when I mean tiny, I mean real tiny). That would have automatic check and balances. But I think we need an organization that would punish disbehaving states by threatening them with nuclear missiles. That organization thus have a monopoly on land (a state), since they can fly the most powerful weapons to all places that would coerce the small competing states. I am a minarchist just because I think we need such organization.

It is possible for a minarchist state to oppose taxes.
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libertarian:
But I think we need an organization that would punish disbehaving states by threatening them with nuclear missiles. That organization thus have a monopoly on land (a state), since they can fly the most powerful weapons to all places that would coerce the small competing states.

I think the current "Imperial Commander" in DC agrees with you and has already assumed that role.

 

libertarian:
I am a minarchist just because I think we need such organization.  It is possible for a minarchist state to oppose taxes.

I make another appeal for Truth in Labeling (as called for in the original post of this discussion). And again, I am NOT disputing your view of government, only what you are (mis)calling it.

 Statism exists on a continuum ranging from TOTAL STATE (Totalitarianism) thru Communism, Fascism, Democracy, "Limited" Republic, mini-statism, micro-statism, nano-statism...but there is no MINARCHY. It is a made-up word that is devoid of sensible meaning! You either have NO government (Anarchy) or you have some government of varying degrees of severity as described above. 

The general usage of the made-up word "minarchy" refers to some unspecified, presumably small, amount of government. If it means "a few rulers", it means statism of some measure.

You cannot have "degrees" of anarchy (min-archy, max-archy, total-archy) because you cannot have degrees of NO GOVERMENT!! Anarchy means NO RULERS! ZERO, ZIP ZILCH.There is no "mini-zero" or "minzero" and there cannot be such.

Dennis 

 

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TomG replied on Sun, Feb 17 2008 7:31 PM

http://mises.com/forums/p/1412/19176.aspx#19176

take a look at the diagram here - with supposed degrees of Anarchism - Totalitarianism on one axis that's intersected by degrees of Socialism - Capitalism on another axis: 

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TomG:

http://mises.com/forums/p/1412/19176.aspx#19176

take a look at the diagram here - with supposed degrees of Anarchism - Totalitarianism on one axis that's intersected by degrees of Socialism - Capitalism on another axis: 

 

The diagram of "supposed degrees of Anarchism" suffers from the same nonsense as "minarchy". My criticism applies to the diagram as well.

You cannot have "degrees" of anarchy because you cannot have degrees of NO GOVERMENT!! Anarchy means NO RULERS!

If you must think in terms of diagrams, this one is more appropriate--if you locate Anarchy as a dot ABOVE the top point:

  http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz.html

 Dennis

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Solredime replied on Mon, Feb 18 2008 4:43 AM

Anarchy, means no government, where archos means ruler, and the prefix 'an' means none. Since the word min-archy no longer contains the prefix 'an', it effectively means a minimum of archos, or rulers.

Just thought of that. Seems to make sense to me.

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TomG replied on Mon, Feb 18 2008 5:14 AM

Dennis - thanks for sharing that diagram, which is the most logical from a categorical perspective ... the reality being - as you've been saying - that once you've stepped into 'anarchy' it's the negation of any and all extra-authority, so that the diagram's blocks are scale identifiers and not equal in size ... with in fact 'anarchy' being but a line on the edge lowest edge of the 'authoritarian scale' (but yours puts the whole schema in correct positions, top-level.  Thanks again

Fred Furash - I'd have to say your etymological breakdown seems cogent to me.  And I contend that those using it do so over a term like 'ministatist' because it sounds more sophisticated and catchy (and let's face it, in this post-Austin Powers era 'mini-' anything just puts a laser-humping diminutive guy into one's head ;)  Such a self-designation sounds very Jeffersonian - as in the least amoung of government necessary - which sounds like a practical club worth considering (as in, going in the right direction, one brick at a time)

 

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TomG replied on Mon, Feb 18 2008 5:44 AM

http://www.marginalrevolution.com/

In the above Econ site, in the lastest Assorted Links #1 - a related pdf file, study by one Morris Altman of U. of Saskatchewan - on Economic Freedom & GDP.  A statement in the conclusion:  "The level of economic freedom per se does not indicate if a particular economy has its economic freedom mix just right."  This work expounds an Economic Freedom Index and the proper mix of economic freedoms that may be required to achieve optimal growth.

Cheers, TomG 

 

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According to Wikipedia, ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minarchism ) this 'minarchism" problem (as I stated it in message #1) started when the term was coined in 1970 or 1971 by Samuel Edward Konkin III, an anarchist.

Here is a sample showing WHY this term is not only unnecessarily confusing but also totally redundant with perfectly good ways of accurately saying exactly what is meant:

 

...minarchism, sometimes called minimal statism, "anarchist dictatorship" or small government, is the view that the size, role and influence of government in a free society should be minimal...

Minarchists believe some minimal government is necessary...

Not only is the continued use of "minarchy" unnecessary, it is TOTALLY RIDICULOUS--as in absurd, preposterous, ludicrous, even laughable that supposedly intelligent people would allow themselves to fall for and use such a deliberately obfuscating, meaningless, made-up word!

"Ministatism" and "ministatist" are each only 1 letter longer than "minarchism" and "minarchist".

Is that such a terrible price to pay for Truth in Labeling?.

Dennis Wilson

 

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 I do not understand why "suddenly"--and for the first time ever--my most recent reply--in a discussion thread that I started--needs to wait for approval.

(and apparently THIS message does NOT need to wait)????????? 

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