Note: The following blog post is directed at someone who goes by the name “Orygyn” and his specific criticisms of a certain article. Consequently, it may not be worth it for anyone else to take the time to read it. In fact, I recommend that anyone other than “Orygyn” not read it for that reason. Any of my other posts and the works that I link to in them are better worth your time.
What I am replying to: http://orygyn.blogspot.com/2012/03/re-what-it-means-to-be-anarcho.html
“Libertarians, he says, have been arguing against a straw man when they think that anarchists are looking to achieve an actual stateless society. Right off the bat, I have a huge issue with this.” You should have a huge problem with that. But, that’s not what Kinsella said.
Kinsella said, “Libertarian opponents of anarchy are attacking a straw man.” This means that those libertarians who are not anarchists, but rather support some sort of minimal state, are confused when they make their attacks that “‘anarchy won’t work.'” This is because libertarian anarchists are not arguing that anarchy “works,” (although I do believe that it would “work” in the sense that opponents use the term), but rather are just arguing that aggression is not justified and that states necessarily employ aggression. The libertarian non-anarchist’s objection is thus a straw man objection. Make sense?
Lastly, not that both Kinsella and I are indeed “looking to achieve an actual stateless society.” We both desire such a society. The difference in our views is that I am optimistic that one day in the future such free anarchist societies will eventually be common, whereas Kinsella is pessimistic, doubting that anarchists’ efforts will ever succeed. But, we both desire one. Again though, this is not what Kinsella said when he mentioned the straw man argument that self-identified non-anarchist libertarians often make (that anarchy won’t “work”).
You responded to Kinsella’s statement: “It’s an ethical view, so no surprise it confuses utilitarians.” I am not a utilitarian myself and subscribe to the deontological natural-rights-based defense of anarchy and rejection of the state, like Kinsella, but I nevertheless agree that Kinsella’s statement could be critiqued. Some anarchists, such as David Friedman, do not use natural rights to argue for anarchy, but instead use consequentialist arguments (such as utilitarianism) to argue for anarchy. I happened to write a blog post about this aspect of David Friedman’s views yesterday if you’re interested: https://peacerequiresanarchy.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/david-friedman-on-medieval-iceland/ Thus, not all anarchists would agree that being an anarchist is necessarily an ethical view. While I would go as far as to say most would, not all do, and so Kinsella’s statement can be critiqued. Further, anarchists such as David Friedman who use utilitarian arguments for anarchy are not “confused” by the argument that Kinsella provides in the article, and so Kinsella’s statement can be further critiqued. I would bet that Friedman most certainly understands the arguments, he simply thinks that the arguments for natural rights are weak in areas, and so chooses to use consequentialist arguments for anarchy instead. Further, you are right that Kinsella does not provide the reasons why he is opposed to utilitarianism in the brief article and so for someone who supports utilitarianism I can see why you object.
“I have no problem admitting that states behave aggressively. It would be extremely hard to argue against this: a military, by definition, is aggressive, a police force will need to employ aggression to arrest people etc.” Military and police forces are not necessarily aggressive. The mere use of force does not count as aggression in and of itself. There is defensive force and retalitory force (force used in response or retaliation to aggressive force) that do not count as aggressive force. Thus, a better answer to the question of what acts of aggressive force do government always commit is better answered with the two acts thatKinsella provides: “States always tax their citizens, which is a form of aggression. They always outlaw competing defense agencies, which also amounts to aggression.” So again, for example, if someone goes and murders a person and then you respond with physical force against that person to arrest them to make sure that they cannot do any more harm to people, that use of force against them is retaliatory force, not aggressive force, and hence can be be justified.
“”Innocent”, then, is being used in a different way.” Yes, it is. Almost all of the minarchist “libertarians” reading his article on LewRockwell.com would have understood what this sense of “innocent” is too, so I don’t blame Kinsella for not going into the unnecessary description of libertarian property rights in the article that most of his readers are already quite familiar with. For you, however, we may need to get you more background on what principles of property rights libertarians adhere to.
“Kinsella then makes his biggest mistake…. Claiming that it isn’t possible to justify something necessarily implies objective morality.” I agree with you here that no reason is evident that an objective morality exists. Thus, when taken literally, Kinsella’s assetion that it is not possible to show that aggression is justified seems to be a very strong assertion that would be impossible to defend. Perhaps Kinsella thus should have made a weaker assertion saying, “Nobody has yet shown how aggression is justified.” In this way, the view that aggression is not justified would stand until someone (miraculously) argued that it is justified. This weaker statement would leave open the possibility that aggression could be justified, but would just ask for some argument as to why it is justified.
While I have not read a whole lot into the exact arguments of “argumentation ethics” that Kinsella links to, I just want to mention that I believe that this system of ethics he argues for assumes some foundational values. For example, I believe that one assumption is something about equality meaning that any theory of ethics consistent with this assumed value must be “universalizable” (remember this term from the last mention of it?) so that it applies to everyone equally (unlike principles that say some people have rigthts to enslave other people, etc). Thus, perhaps Kinsella can indeed successfully argue that it is not possible to show that aggression is justified (his strong claim) within a framework of a certain set of background ethical values such as equality. While I believe you are right that there is no objective morality and thus we would not be able to prove that this framework of assumed moral values is morally “correct,” we can still possibly say that given these assumed values, a certain correct ethical philosophy exists.
So while we could get into the details of this (as I believe Kinsella has in what he has linked to, although I haven’t read it all), let me just note that I don’t think it’s needed to go all the way into these philosophical details for the argument in Kinsella’s article (that aggression, and therefore states, are not justified) to still have it’s meaning. For example, if I assert that mass murder is unjustified, you aren’t going to challenge me. We share a set of subjective values and agree that given these values mass murder of human beings is not justified. There is no proof of this, it’s just something we assume. In a similar way, I don’t think that it is at all extreme to hold a certain set of subjective moral values that means that all aggression, not just murder, is unjustified.
So since we “all agree that private crime (murder, robbery, rape) is unjustified, and “should” not occur” I don’t think this philosophical issue is much of an issue. We cannot prove that we ought not murder, rob, or rape, yet we all prefer this system of morality. What remains, then is for you to either agree with Kinsella and I that the state’s crime is no different than private crime (except that it’s legal, but morally that makes no difference), and thus agree that the state is not justified just like how private crime (murder, etc) is not justified, or else for you to explain why you think that the state’s aggression (Situation B (VAT or sales tax), if you remember https://peacerequiresanarchy.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/the-definition-of-theft/ ), unlike private individual’s aggression (Situation D (private equivalent to situation B), is morally justified. Of course B is deemed legal by the state, whereas D is deemed illegal, but morally there is no reason for this difference. So while I agree with you that you cannot prove that either B or D is moral or immoral, you at the very least have to either agree that they are both moral or both immoral, or else provide a significant reason why they are different. And I believe you are yet to provide such a reason why they are different. You have said that one is “legal” and the other is not, but this is completely arbitrary and meaningless from a moral point of view.
“There is a problem with saying this, though, and it goes back to the practicality of anarchism. I don’t know about other people, but if I were to make the statement that “anarchy won’t work”, I am not talking about how likely it is that it can be achieved. I am talking about the results the system produces.” Kinsella does unnecessarily bring his pessimistic views that we will always have states into the article immediately after the mention of “anarchy won’t work” which potentially gives rise to the misinterpretation that Kinsella thinks that “anarchy won’t work” is equivalent to “anarchy won’t be achieved.” Note that this is not his view. He and I and you and everyone else I have heard of do not believe that the two statements have the same meaning. So when someone says “anarchy won’t work” they are indeed referring to the results that an anarchist system would produce, yes.
I disagree with you that the practicality of anarchism gives rise to a problem with saying that states are not justified because they employ aggression and aggression is not justified. For one, I would argue that anarchy “works” better than having a state. This is of course not to say that Somalia “works” better than the current USA or UK (see 1:14:35 to 1:23:16 of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5PbLLBfiM8 Again, the whole lecture is recommended if you ever get bored in the future.) Eventually hopefully you’ll understand enough about anarchy that you can share this view as well.
“If it can’t produce a populous that feels happy and free, if it creates problems for the every day person going about their business, it is not a society I could ever support.” Populouses can only be free in anarchist societies, not societies with governments. As I said earlier, I am not an anarchist solely because of the ethical argument that government aggression is unjustified. I also very much prefer anarchy from a consequentialist perspective. That is, I believe that anarchy “works” better than alternative societies with governments. I believe that the “results” are better. So from a utilitarian perspective I would support anarchy too.
You seem to think that a Hobbesian war of all against all would occur if you and others stopped supporting government aggression against peaceful people to tax them to fund various government services such as law services. This is a view that the vast majority of people hold. They hold it not because they arrived at it after careful thought on the subject, but because they were indoctrinated into believing in it.
To me the moral argument that I should not support aggressive violence against innocent people through the state is clear, but I suppose if I believed that anarchy would be a world of violence, death, destruction, and if I thought that life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” then it might not be so clear to me that using violence against peaceful people through the state is necessarily bad.
I now know that this vision of anarchy is complete nonsense, however. Perhaps rather than try to argue with you about morality, I would more effectively get you to accept the moral position that aggression is always unjustified and illegitimate (libertarianism), by focusing solely on the issue of what anarchy would like like.
First, note that I believe the opposite of you as to the “results” of anarchy. I believe that anarchy would be relatively peaceful and that it is our current society with states that is full of violence. And not just violence like taxation and violence against people like marijuana-users and other victimless criminals, but violence like wars. If it weren’t for taxation, the atrocities committed by governments in wars would be vastly reduced. Nobody would voluntarily choose to pay for such costly and immoral wars. It only because they are forced to be taxes for them that the wars get nearly as much funding as they do.
Now on the subject of what anarchy would look like. My last two blog posts have been about historical examples of societies that were close to being anarchy. They both involved private creation and enforcement of law. When you eventually get time, I recommend them both (mostly I recommend the essays that the blog posts are about, but my comments in the blog posts too if you want): https://peacerequiresanarchy.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/an-american-experiment-in-anarcho-capitalism-the-not-so-wild-wild-west/
A highly recommended YouTube series of 3 videos, each less than 10 minutes, on “Law Without Government”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?src_vid=EUS1m5MSt9k&annotation_id=annotation_852769&list=PL1647CADF96760B37&feature=iv&v=khRkBEdSDDo
In the second of the three parts of the above series “Law Without Government,” there is a link in the video description to an exchange that took place between me (going by a different name, before I created this one (which I created because it actually conveys something meaningful)) and the creator of the video. I think it would be helpful in understanding exactly what anarchy is. Here is the exchance which went back and forth two times: You can ignore the comments on both; they aren’t worth reading.
Lastly, a recent YouTube video called “Government Explained” that you may want to check out for fun (although don’t put it on the top of your list for learning about anarchy because it does not go into any details of the workings of anarchy): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUS1m5MSt9k
So good luck learning about anarchy. If it stops being enjoyable, take a break. I don’t mean to make you feel an obligation to read or watch any of the resources I am providing you. I am just providing them for your benefit if you are looking for some information. And remember that from my perspective, it is clear to me that anarchy is a prefered “result” to society with government, both morally and in terms of the utilitarian effects. As pretentious as this might sound, I thus don’t think it’s at all likely that you will persuade me to accept even the consequence of government (let alone the moral side). Thus, you don’t have to write up a response to everything you read/watch if you don’t want. I know it is time consuming to do so and may not be as beneficial as if you just keep on exploring voluntary social organizations. Peace.