Rebirth of Reason

War for Men's Minds

Sicking The Saddamites #7 - Miscellaneous Misconceptions
by Robert James Bidinotto

(Editor's note - a post on one of the 'Sicking The Saddamite' threads so outstanding that I have pulled it up as an article. - Linz)

Stephan Kinsella wrote:

Here's the problem Objectivists never answer. Logicaly, you have to favor one-world government, as there is currently anarchy between nations. But you never do.

Okay, let me reply to my old friend Stephan.

For a government to operate legitimately, i. e., in accordance with individual rights, presupposes the existence of a supporting culture, one respectful of the philosophic premises at the base of the rule of law and individual liberty: reason, individual rights, constitutionally limited government. Today, such an Enlightenment-based cultural infrastructure may be possible at the level of single nations.

But globally?

A precondition of a legitimate one-world government would be the existence of a global culture endorsing these Enlightenment premises. While that may be theoretically possible in the future, it certainly doesn't exist, and it's highly unlikely. And for us to endorse a "one-world government" in a world that rejects Enlightenment premises is suicidal.

For all those reasons, the "final arbiter" of conflicts among Americans must remain within U. S. borders, at the federal level. Conflicts between us and those in foreign lands can be addressed, where possible, by treaties -- but not treaties that undermine U. S. sovereignty and the rights of U. S. citizens.

Stephan continues:

Rand herself had Galt say that no man may start the use of force. This is quite simple, and quite good. A state necessarily initiates force, and thus commits aggression, as I have elaborated in this article: What It Means To Be an Anarcho-Capitalist. If you endorse any state, you either think some aggression is okay, or you think states don't necessarily employ aggression. One or the other. Which is it?

Stephan, the claim that "a state necessarily initiates force" is simply false. Let me not once more belabor the fallacies of that argument here. I think I more than adequately addressed them, at length, in a series of articles posted on my blog, under the subheading, "Anarchism and Limited Government."

Moreover, as I showed there, NONE of the "anarcho-capitalist" systems advanced by ANY major proponents of anarchism has come to grips with anarchism's fatal, fundamental dilemma:

At some point, the "competing agencies" under anarchism must forcibly resolve enduring disagreements and conflicts -- either by (a) imposing on the disputants a final resolution (which itself would amount to the hated "monopoly on force" for which anarchists condemn governments) -- or else (b) by devolving into a state of eternal gang warfare ("anarchism" in the familiar sense of the term).

In short, either "competing agencies" set up a "final arbiter" of disputes (a government) to enforce their verdicts -- or they grant individuals a universal "right of secession" from EVERY verdict...thus granting all aggressors a carte blanche to impose social chaos.

Anarchists evade a simple fact of reality: In conflict resolution, some mechanism of enforcement is logically unavoidable, because even "reasonable" individuals and groups will continue to disagree with verdicts. If you recognize an unlimited right for dissatisfied individuals to "secede" from such verdicts, then the entire system collapses.

All the subsequent tap-dancing and rope-a-dope from anarchists in response to my argument hasn't left a dent in this unavoidable real-world dilemma.

So if the "moral" complaint of anarchists against government is that it necessarily imposes itself on unwilling participants, then "anarcho-capitalism" is no alternative. If it establishes a mechanism of enforcement, it becomes a de facto government; if it doesn't, it paves the way for civil war...where the most powerful gang will ultimately impose its agenda by force.

The anarchist rejoinder -- that "market incentives" will be sufficient to prevent people from coming to blows -- is so preposterously naive as to be unworthy of discussion. The initiation of force is always destructive, harming even the initiator's rational interests; yet that fact hasn't stopped aggression since the beginning of human society. To believe that armed private agencies, competing to satisfy paying clients, would fail to respond to "market demand" guiding the employment of force, ignores the whole of history, and is just too silly for further words.

To Mark Humphrey:

You wrote...

Bidinotto's brief commentary about the posts made by Anthony Gregory (with whom I have areas of agreement and disagreement) and presumably myself, read like a religious leader inveighing the Faithful to avert their eyes from sin: "Satan, get thee behind me!"

Mark, like Stephan, you too are an old friend. Had I meant to single you out for rebuke, you would not have had to guess that my remarks "presumably" included yourself. Please don't presume: I know how to make myself clear. I find Anthony Gregory's manner here contemptible. But while I disagree strongly with your views, I didn't find the same attitude in how you expressed your positions, or else I would have mentioned you by name.

In "inveighing" against the libertarian movement, as it has devolved, I am necessarily generalizing. Many self-described "libertarians" (including anarchists) are wonderful individuals, of course, and I count you, Tibor Machan, Eric Mack, Stephan Kinsella and many other libertarians among them.

But there comes a time in which an organized movement -- in terms of its institutions, publications and even its label -- has been hijacked, and has come to be dominated by a different and much less reputable sort. Even disregarding questions of character, the bald fact that the libertarian movement is now dominated by those whose philosophic orientation is anarchist has a host of important policy implications, such as what kind of criminal justice system and defense policy are consistent with liberty.

If the debates raging on this forum prove anything, it is the complete incompatibility of the worldviews, strategies, institutions and policy recommendations between those holding anarchist views, and those advancing limited government views.

Sadly, the anarchist position now reigns supreme on the staffs at virtually all the major self-defined "libertarian" organs: the Libertarian Party, Liberty magazine, Journal of Libertarian Studies, Foundation for Economic Education, Future of Freedom Foundation, The Mises Institute (Dr. Mises is probably spinning in his grave), Center for Libertarian Studies, ISIL, Libertarian Alliance, Libertarian International, Laissez Faire Books, Independent Institute, LewRockwell.com, Strike-the-Root.com and AntiWar.com, and many, many more. And though they may not (yet) dominate venerable institutions such as Cato and Reason, anarchists (and certainly "non-interventionist" libertarians) are heavily represented there, too.

More fundamentally: leading libertarian thinkers are all but unanimous in equating "libertarianism" with philosophic agnosticism: the view that libertarian politics is compatible with, and even can be derived from, virtually any philosophical position -- i. e., any form of theism, hedonism, relativism, skepticism, altruism, environmentalism, free will, determinism and, oh yes, Objectivism. Under this philosophically open-ended definition of "libertarianism," the views of even the worst subjectivists -- from racists to pedophiles to druggies and other sundry libertines -- cannot be dismissed as incompatible with "libertarianism."

This agnosticism only works to the advantage of the scum. There was a time, for example, when Justin Raimondo (AntiWar.com) was a very marginal figure in the libertarian movement; and at that time, Peter Schwartz of ARI came under considerable (and justifiable) criticism for portraying him as being representative of "libertarianism." Since 9/11, however, Raimondo has moved center stage within the movement. It turns out that Schwartz's criticism wasn't so much wrong as it was premature. The libertarian movement's philosophical admissions policy mirrors its immigration policy: indiscriminately open borders.

The result? Today, no sane observer outside the libertarian movement could survey it and conclude that "libertarianism" really means such things as constitutionally limited government, protection of intellectual property via patents and copyrights, or a strong national defense (especially one that projects U. S. force beyond our borders in order to defend our rights and interests against international threats). Quite the contrary.

Ayn Rand wrote that rational ideas, such as Objectivism, will succeed in the world to the extent that the logical alternatives are clearly, publicly defined. If so, then what is the value for Objectivists in contributing to ongoing public confusion, by continuing to associate themselves with a movement now dominated by anarchists (and infiltrated by worse)? Such a linkage will only confuse and repulse the public, muddle the intellectual debates, and obliterate the simple fact that we hold completely incompatible positions on a host of political issues -- ranging from criminal justice to intellectual property to national defense and war.

Let me clarify one other matter. Philosophical disagreement does not necessarily translate into personal animosity or social ostracism. We are, after all, individuals, and as individuals we should judge and be judged. While ad hoc forms of cooperation (and certainly individual friendships!) remain possible among inhabitants of the two movements, the incompatibility of Objectivism with what "libertarianism" has come to mean requires that we erect a clear definitional firewall between the two movements per se.

This is not a conclusion I come to with pleasure. One of my first efforts in joining the staff of The Objectivist Center in the mid-1990s was to try to bridge the chasms between Objectivists and libertarians. And I worked hard at it.

But that was at a time when the movement was still up for grabs, philosophically speaking. It was also before 9/11. Contrary to what many have said, that traumatic event did not drive ideological divisions into the libertarian movement: it merely revealed them. The divisions had been there all along.

Here's hoping that the reasons for my "inveighing" are now clearer. Mark, this is not a religious zealot inveighing the Faithful. I think it is plain common sense: the simple recognition of a deep philosophic division that we shouldn't pretend to ignore.
Sanctions: 20Sanctions: 20Sanctions: 20 Sanction this ArticleEditMark as your favorite article

Discuss this Article (22 messages)