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Post 0

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 12:22pmSanction this postReply
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I'm glad that this was written after my Letter to the Editor or I might have been charged with plagiarism.

Sam




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Post 1

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 12:49pmSanction this postReply
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Good critique of Honderich's misrepresentation of libertarianism.

According to Honderich, "[I]n this perfectly just [libertarian] society they [those who are starving] have no claim to food, no moral right to it." By "perfectly just society," I gather that he means under the principles of libertarianism followed consistently, a starving man has no right to someone else's food, which is true. But didn't Marx argue that the worker has a right to the product of his labor? If I produced the food, then why, according to Marxism, does someone else have a right to it? Yes, I know, Marxists also endorse the principle "From each according to his ability to each according to his need." But that just means that they aren't being philosophically consistent. Besides, as Rand observes, a need is not a claim. If it were, then slavery would be justified. The non-producers would own the producers, with very little being produced, and mass starvation, the inevitable result, which has already occurred under (guess what?) Marxism itself.

Moreover, the essence of the libertarian ethos is personal autonomy. In a libertarian society each person rules himself and is allowed to rule himself — to make his own decisions, so long as he respects the same right in others.

Who is the ultimate ruler in a Marxist society? The collective, which is allowed to make not only its own decisions, but decisions for everyone else as well. If, in a libertarian society, an individual has a right to refuse help to a starving man; in a collectivist society, the collective has a right not only to refuse help to a starving man, but also to make it illegal for anyone else to help him.

So the Marxist’s complaint against a libertarian society applies with even greater force against a collectivist society. In fact, in a libertarian society, a starving man has a far better chance of being helped than in a collectivist society, if only because there are far more decision makers who have the option of choosing to help him. In a collectivist society, by contrast, there is only one ultimate decision maker — the collective. If the collective renders a decision that it is wrong to help a starving man (e.g., because he is an enemy of the people), no one else is permitted to help him.

In short, a Marxist is in no position to criticize a libertarian for endorsing freedom of choice, when Marxism endorses it too, but restricts it to a ruling collective.





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Post 2

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 8:10pmSanction this postReply
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Tibor Machan: "Government exists to secure our rights"

In theory.

In practice, government mainly exists to rob and extort and coerce us. Sometimes some portions of it secures some of our rights -- and alleges it does that better than if we secured them ourselves.




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Post 3

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 8:29pmSanction this postReply
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Jim,

I don't think you are maintaining a reasonable perspective. If you look at a government like North Korea, I'd agree that government exists mostly to rob and extort and coerce their citizens. But clearly we do not see the degree of negative effects here in the U.S. If the Korean government prohibits, just to make some numbers up, 90% of the options of their people and takes about 90% of their labor, then what are the percentages here in our country?

What portion of the options that you, personally, should be able to explore have been closed out due to government regulations that shouldn't exist? I'm not saying there aren't any, but I am saying that you make the U.S. sound like a Gulag.

Apart from some predation by the government most of our property rights are protected. We are mostly free of the rights violations from criminals and other governments. These are significant positives.

I'm not arguing for the status quo, since I am committed to minarchy, but I'm thinking that your dislike of all government is coloring your judgment.



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Post 4

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 10:23pmSanction this postReply
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I think Tibor meant that the proper role of government is to secure our rights, not that all governments all of the time does such a thing. I think Tibor Machan deserves more respect than to have it implied he's a statist.

Just an observation, that's now two separate threads Jim that I've noticed you've attacked the man. So I'm just going to say, we get it, you are an anarchist. By your absence of posting a follow up here I'm going to assume you actually don't care to make an attempt to understand the philosophical principles I've discussed and you will continue to believe in anarchism, even though you are unwilling to defend it. I suggest you start posting your objections to Objectivism in the dissent section.



Post 5

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 12:51amSanction this postReply
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Steve: "Jim,

I don't think you are maintaining a reasonable perspective. If you look at a government like North Korea, I'd agree that government exists mostly to rob and extort and coerce their citizens. But clearly we do not see the degree of negative effects here in the U.S."

I just got back from watching Final Reading of the bills passed by the Hawaii State Legislature. It's not North Korea -- no country comes even close to the horrowshow that is that creepy authoritarian hellhole -- but based on my actual observation of what went on today, I think "rob and extort and coerce" is an accurate description of what the Hawaii state legislature mostly does.

Oh, and I got a dunning notice today from the Hawaii state tax collector's office. I filed my wife's General Excise Tax statement a bit late because the forms I needed to fill it out didn't arrive in a timely manner. They are trying to charge me an effective annual interest rate of 80%.

That's not quite mafiosa levels of robbery, but it comes close.



Post 6

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 1:01amSanction this postReply
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Jim,

I notice that you didn't really address my question. You choose to take a day of watching the legislature and make that your answer as if that were the entire political experience of our country. I think that makes my point for me.



Post 7

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 1:04amSanction this postReply
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John, I quoted Tibor's actual words. I didn't imply anything. I showed his stated perspective, then I gave my perspective. I don't think it's disrespectful to express a difference of opinion, and then reveal the experiences that have led me to that opinion.

Tibor is a minarchist, as are most Objectivists who frequent this website. Being a minarchist is a good thing -- in my opinion, it means one is almost completely an individualist, but is a statist about just a handful of things. Virtually everyone I know is way more statist than a minarchist.

I would love to live in a society where the majority of the populace are minarchists, and that majority POV is reflected in the governance. There is no government on earth that is even close to minarchy currently.

So, I don't mean to be disrespectful, I'm just arguing for the incredibly rare view that we should rid ourselves of statism entirely.

My apologies if my passionate advocacy of that POV has caused people to take offense. That was not my intention.

We good now?



Post 8

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 1:19amSanction this postReply
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John: "By your absence of posting a follow up here I'm going to assume you actually don't care to make an attempt to understand the philosophical principles I've discussed and you will continue to believe in anarchism, even though you are unwilling to defend it."

John, that would be an incorrect assumption. I have spent an inordinate amount of time here in the past few days explaining and defending my POV -- too much time, frankly.

Just because someone posts something here doesn't mean I'm obligated to reply. I have other values I am trying to juggle and prioritize, and I'm not going to sacrifice by spending more time here than feels right to me.

And, I believe I DO understand your perspective, and Steve's perspective, and I appreciate your values and principles, and wish there were a few hundred million more people in this country who thought like you two do regarding minarchism. That would make this a much more enjoyable place to live.

But, I have had the experiences working at the state capitol for eight sessions that I have had, and those experiences have led me to become an anarchist, because I know from firsthand experience at painfully close range the kind of power-hungry sociopaths who predominate in the legislative and executive branches. Sorry, but I just don't trust the buggers, and have compelling reasons to feel that way. If you had gone through what I have gone through, perhaps you too would be less sanguine.

Perhaps I'm just a burnt-out cynical bastard who has lost perspective, but dammit, it doesn't feel that way inside my head. It feels like I understand all too well how the statist beast works. I feel I have an accurate and reality-based perspective. You are free to disagree.



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Post 9

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 9:26amSanction this postReply
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Jim wrote,
So, I don't mean to be disrespectful, I'm just arguing for the incredibly rare view that we should rid ourselves of statism entirely.
Whoa! Minarchism is not statism. Statism is not equivalent to government per se; it is a political system in which power is concentrated in the state at the expense of individual liberty. Communism, socialism, Nazism, fascism and various welfare states, including present-day U.S., are versions of statism. But a government limited to the protection of individual rights, which is what Machan is defending, is not.

Jim, I'm still not clear on what your position is. Are you an anarcho-capitalist, along the lines of David Friedman, or do you believe that there should be a single, uniform body of law within a specified geographical area, but one which allows for competition among agencies dedicated to its enforcement? If the former, then I'd agree that you're an anarchist. If the latter, then I'd say that you're an advocate of government, namely, an institution that holds a enforceable monopoly on the law.

- Bill



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Post 10

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 10:29amSanction this postReply
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Bill -- My POV is that any amount of the existence of a state is statism, and that minarchism is a really hefty dose of individualism mixed with just a touch of statism.

I realize that this is not the POV of minarchists, that they define "statism" differently, because they think that the "right" amount of government if run by the "right" people does not violate individual rights, it protects those rights.

Anarchists don't see it that way.

I'm not trying to be rude here or disrespectful here, I'm just giving my POV.

I don't agree with every word in David Friedman's "The Machinery of Freedom", but I think it is theoretically possible to have something approaching anarcho-capitalism. I concede that in practice the fact that we will, in the foreseeable future, have statists and socialists among us, would make it impossible to get there because of their concerted efforts to slyly insert their quasi-theology into any system of human affairs.

Re this:

"Statism is not equivalent to government per se; it is a political system in which power is concentrated in the state at the expense of individual liberty"

If you have a government monopoly of police power, then you have a political system in which power is concentrated in the state at the expense of individual liberty FOR POLICE.

Basically, we agree with everything in that sentence up to the phrase "at the expense of individual liberty" -- you feel that some forms of government monopoly can enhance human liberty -- period, full stop. I feel that such forms can enhance human liberty compared to more coercive forms of a government monopoly but degrades human liberty compared to having competition.

That is the nut of the disagreement between minarchists and anarcho-capitalists.

re this: "do you believe that there should be a single, uniform body of law within a specified geographical area, but one which allows for competition among agencies dedicated to its enforcement?"

I would LOVE to have a single, uniform body of law strictly derived from the non-initiation of force throughout the entire world, administered by a plethora of code of law agencies that are not in substantial conflict because there is only one non-initiation of force principle -- the only alternatives is to inject doses of statism to some extent therein. But, realistically, that is not going to happen anytime in the foreseeable future, because of the predominance of statist thought. So, any practicle solution will have to work around the statism inherent in human nature.

Sorry if I didn't answer the question in the manner you might have been asking for it, but the correct response to "having you stopped beating your wife" is not an unadorned "yes" or "no" response.



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Post 11

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 11:37amSanction this postReply
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Jim, you wrote,
you feel that some forms of government monopoly can enhance human liberty -- period, full stop.
I wouldn't put it that way -- I wouldn't say "enhance" human liberty. I would say "protect and defend the principle of human liberty."
I feel that such forms can enhance human liberty compared to more coercive forms of a government monopoly but degrades human liberty compared to having competition.
Competition in what? In the enforcement of different legal systems within the same geographical area? Wouldn't that involve violent competition between incompatible law enforcement agencies? And wouldn't that entail the violation of human liberty?

You also wrote,
Sorry if I didn't answer the question in the manner you might have been asking for it, but the correct response to "having you stopped beating your wife" is not an unadorned "yes" or "no" response.
I don't think the question I asked you was equivalent to "Have you stopped beating your wife?" I asked you whether you believed in competition between different legal systems within the same geographical area (David Friedman's conception) or competition in the enforcement of a uniform legal system within the same geographical area. This not a trick question; it is quite clear and capable of being answered.

- Bill

(Edited by William Dwyer on 4/28, 12:11pm)




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Post 12

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 4:24pmSanction this postReply
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In my experience, anarchists are not actually for the system they propose. They're against certain things. They don't want to be taxed. They don't want to be told what to do. They are not for anything. They are against something. It's more of an emotional response, and anarcho-capitalism is simply a vaguely defined rationalization to make them feel that they're not asking for the impossible.

Taking their proposals too seriously is a mistake. If reason didn't lead them to those conclusions, reason won't convince them otherwise. It's generally a good policy not to take people's ideas more seriously than they do.



Post 13

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 11:20pmSanction this postReply
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Joe,

I have to disagree with you here. I've known more than a few anarchists, and they do take their position seriously. They may not have thought it through that well, but I still think it deserves being addressed and refuted.

- Bill



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Post 14

Thursday, April 29, 2010 - 10:33amSanction this postReply
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Joe, Bill,

You are both correct.

Bill would be correct in saying, that they need to be taken seriously in the sense that their failure to provide any solid arguments must be pointed out. And it must be pointed out that their claim to be supporters of liberty, freedom or Capitalism are false. Some of them are professors and intellectuals - and they need to be shot down as intellectual light-weights arguing for illogical and harmful positions.
-----------

But Joe is correct in pointing out that the overwhelming majority of anarchists are against things on what is some form of psychological urge. Go ahead and accuse me psychologizing, but after so many years of these long, drawn out argument I'm going to say what has become obvious. Anarchists are arguing from some kind of emotional urge to oppose order, rules, agreements of some kinds - they are like the hippies were in their opposition to 'conformity' which they did by conforming to a specific set of illogical, childish objections. And like someone deep into substance abuse, they are deep into denial. I've never seen anyone approach serious critics with intellectual honesty.

Joe can correct me if I'm wrong. I understand him to be saying that it is the flimsy ideological structures and floating abstractions and fantasized utopias they project that deserve no serious attention - not at the detail level. And they don't ever devote serious effort to defending much of that themselves, they just ignore that one item has been shot down, and fantasize another flimsy, illogical structure to take its place.

Bill, they take their core objections seriously - they are deadly serious about their opposition to any form of government, but they don't take all the fantasized alternative structures seriously. You start arguing about some scheme where you go to a voting booth and register for one of the many competing governments... blah, blah, blah. You shoot down that scheme and they pop up another. Shoot them all down - in specifics, and in general principle. Then you provide solid principles for minarchy... Doesn't matter, because they will ignore all you've done and come back with a new hair-brained scheme. They aren't 'for' - only 'against.'



Post 15

Thursday, April 29, 2010 - 10:46amSanction this postReply
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Bill: "I asked you whether you believed in competition between different legal systems within the same geographical area (David Friedman's conception) or competition in the enforcement of a uniform legal system within the same geographical area. This not a trick question; it is quite clear and capable of being answered."

OK, thanks for restating the question.

I believe that competition generally leads to better outcomes than monopolies, and thus David Friedman's conception, competition between different legal systems within the same geographical area, can lead to better results, if each competing legal system applies only to its own members when they interact among themselves, and when the competing systems have agreed in advance to how to handle interactions between their members.

Thought experiment: Imagine that in Hawaii, there are four would-be competing legal systems regarding economic issues in a geographic region -- Anarcho-Capitalist (AC), Minarchist (M), Social Democrats (SD), and Communist (C). The rough percentage of the populace for each viewpoint: 1% AC, 24% M, 40% SD, 35% C.

If one insisted on a single legal monopoly on the law for such disparate viewpoints, as is the current case, you'd have a war of all against the ballot box. In Hawaii, the real world result is a legal system that is a mishmash of SD and C thinking, with the two factions at war at the legislature where combined they control 90% of the seats, with just enough hobbled free enterprise allowed to exist to serve as a cash cow for the majority party's social welfare schemes, and some of the highest tax rates in the nation. Both the anarcho-capitalists and the minarchists get royally screwed, while the Social Democrats and the Communists are each kind of disgruntled that they don't control all the levers of power, but are somewhat placated by all the wealth they confiscate from the ACs and the Ms.

This is what Bill appears to be advocating in favor of. Let me know if that is not the case.

Now, let's replace this with a competing legal system for economic issues. Economic interactions between two people both subscribing to the same legal system for economic issues are governed by the rules of that legal system. Economic interactions between two people subscribing between different economic systems default to the numerically superior group (unless the two people mutually agreed upon one of the systems), so that * initially * the SD rules apply to interactions with C, M, and A subscribers, the C rules apply to interactions with M and A subscribers, the M rules apply to interactions with A subscribers. So, for example, Costco might make acceptance of a membership application contingent upon C and SD legal system subscribers voluntarily agreeing to a M legal system. And finally, no one can be compelled to interact with anyone else -- one can shun people from other legal regimes and refuse to do business with them, and no one can impose taxes on people from other legal regimes, other than taxes applied to voluntary financial transaction between people from these differing regimes.

I'll advocate for this system over the status quo in Hawaii, since under it, I would shun any business sporting a SD or C legal regime posted at their door. My effective tax rate would plummet, as the Communist and Social Democratic social welfare schemes would have to be financed among their own subscribers plus the few minarchists masochistic enough to do business with them.

I suspect that, pretty soon, the M and AC legal regimes for economics would become the predominant schemes, as only die-hard liberals would pay the prices the SD and C stores would have to charge.
(Edited by Jim Henshaw on 4/29, 12:27pm)




Post 16

Thursday, April 29, 2010 - 3:54pmSanction this postReply
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Jim, why are you only using a system for "economic" issues? What about the police or fire departments? How about armies and navies? Are we sharing these but dividing up how business disputes are settled?



Post 17

Thursday, April 29, 2010 - 6:15pmSanction this postReply
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Steve: "Why are you only using a system for "economic" issues? What about the police or fire departments? How about armies and navies? Are we sharing these but dividing up how business disputes are settled?"

I'm trying to simplify the question with the easiest subset of a larger set of considerably more complex issues for a code of laws.

This, and a few other related threads, have mainly explored whether or not a monopoly of a code of law is the only lasting, feasible possibility in a geographic region, since several minarchists here have already stipulated that such things as police and fire and military services could be privatized, so long as they operate under a monopoly of law. Several minarchists have further stipulated that Ayn Rand has written that mandatory, involuntary, coercive taxes are not part of the minarchist scheme of government she envisions.

Basically, there's very little left for a monopoly government to do in this Objectivist minarchy -- essentially, just maintaining a code of laws -- so now I'm chipping away at which, if any, aspects of a code of laws might be privatized.

The difference between Objectivist minarchists and anarcho-capitalists is far less than I originally thought it was. This has been a fascinating couple of days on these related threads.



Post 18

Thursday, April 29, 2010 - 7:22pmSanction this postReply
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Jim writes: “several minarchists here have already stipulated that such things as police and fire and military services could be privatized, so long as they operate under a monopoly of law. Several minarchists have further stipulated that Ayn Rand has written that mandatory, involuntary, coercive taxes are not part of the minarchist scheme of government she envisions. Basically, there's very little left for a monopoly government to do in this Objectivist minarchy -- essentially, just maintaining a code of laws”

Careful. Joe, Bill and John A. are on board for the above, but nowhere did Rand suggest she is on board for the first or last sentences. She was consistent: police, courts, military. She never suggested chopping the list down to just courts, let alone to just words on paper, i.e., “maintaining a code of laws.”







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Post 19

Thursday, April 29, 2010 - 8:56pmSanction this postReply
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Bill, my experience clearly differs from yours, but I wouldn't dream of robbing you of the opportunity to refute the ideas.  You may not convince them, but it's nice to see someone treating their ideas in a serious way.

Steve, I sanction your post.  I think we're in strong agreement.  And in terms of psychologizing, I think there are real measurable signs that would support our position.  Things like bringing up arguments against minarchy that apply equally to anarchy, which is a good indicator that they're not arguing for their proposed system, but against something else.  Minarchists try to argue about things that are different between anarchy and minarchy, to show how anarchy is flawed in comparison.  But if you don't bother even checking if your objection applies equally to your own position, I think it's good evidence that it isn't your reference point in arguing.  Similarly, the premise that arguing against minarchy is the same as arguing for anarchy suggests that they're considering their system as the opposite of minarchy, instead of as a serious theoretical system.  One requires details and explanations and comparisons, and the other is simply "not statism".

Jon, I agree with you that Rand never suggested the kind of structure we're talking about.  Of course, Rand didn't talk about structure much at all, and it's not clear that we're saying anything different except how it's structured.  How do you pay for the services, for instance?  She said voluntary, and obviously having private police forces would allow it to be voluntary.  Would these police be "a part of the government"?  To a large extent that's purely semantic.  You could say they are, as they enforce the laws and would have many requirements (just as today's police forces do).  Or you could say they aren't because they're not payed for directly by the government. But without taxation, is this a meaningful objection?  I doubt she would have argued that all funding most go through some central government agency, for instance.

I seem to disagree with your assessment of my views (I won't speak for Bill or John).  Specifically, your phrase "just words on paper", or even "maintain a code of laws".

My view of a proper government doesn't start with a bunch of services I think would be useful or historical structures.  I start by looking at human needs that arise within a society.  Clearly it all stems from the fact that we have rights, and they need to be protected.  But if that was all there was to it, there would be no need for a government per se.  We might need guns to enforce our rights, or we might need to team up with some other people to oppose threats to our lives, but this doesn't need to involve the whole populace of a region.  Any subset of people could combine forces to protect each other's rights.  We could call those protection clubs, but they aren't really governments.

The need that involves the whole populace stems from the epistemological issue.  In the course of protecting our rights, we need to use retaliatory force.  But force in general is something that everyone needs to be concerned about.  Initiations of force are not just bad for the specific victim, they're bad for everyone.  So the entire populace has a stake in whether or not a particular use of force is an initiation or a retaliation.  And since we are not omniscient, we need a process of discovery and judgment.  Without this, our retaliations could be mistaken for initiations of force, and others might retaliate.  We need the process in order to secure our right to defend our rights.

That judgment process can be split into two parts.  The first is a mechanism to decide the standards for appropriate or inappropriate uses of force.  The second is a mechanism to apply these standards to the specific scenario in a way that we can achieve general consent for the use of retaliatory force.

So my first objection is the phrasing "maintain a code of laws".  That might be the first mechanism, but it's useless if the second mechanism doesn't exist or isn't used.  So at a minimum, I would expand this list to the judicial process as well.  Note still that the structure does not necessarily require a full time group of people who are paid through a central agency and are somehow running the show.  It could easily be that the judicial process is something that anyone could implement as long as they follow clear rules and make sure their actions are transparent and legitimate.

With these mechanisms, people then have the ability to protect their rights without inviting attacks by other law-abiding citizens due to confusion. 

What's left?  What happens if nobody wants to protect my rights?  Today, it could be argued (incorrectly) that the government must provide that service.  But you can think of that as a welfare program.  There's no reason why others should be forced to protect my rights, just as they are not forced to do anything else for me.  If I can't trade for it, I have to do it myself.

What if some private police decide to ignore the law.  Who's obligated to stop them?  We'd certainly like it if somebody did, but it's difficult to argue why someone is obligated to risk their lives.  More than likely, a large number of people would find a strong incentive not to let that happen, and would pay someone to stop them.  It's not the guaranteed service we like to think that we can get by having a modern-day government, but someone would have to justify why a threat to our lives is an obligation on anyone else's.

What about military?  Most of this doesn't apply directly, but I would follow a similar process.  If our neighbor's military decided to start a war with Canada, we'd clearly have an issue with them as those aggressive Canadians would probably destroy us all.  So for the same reasons force must be agreed upon through a process involving the whole populace (or representative, of course), military force would require similar processes.  I'll leave that as an exercise to the reader.




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