I’ve been a libertarian anarchist for over a year and a half now, but it wasn’t until last week that I actually read a complete book on the subject. The book was David Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom. Then Tuesday I read Gary Chartier’s book The Conscience of an Anarchist and yesterday I finished reading Gerard Casey’s Libertarian Anarchy: Against the State.
“Why the sudden interest?” you might ask. Well, in reality I’ve been interested the whole time. I just chose to read articles and essays rather than books. Of course, articles and essays usually don’t get too deep into a subject so I decided to read a few books for a change to see if I could learn more. I did.
The three books were very different. Friedman primarily makes economic and consequentialist arguments against the state, while Casey mainly argues that the state is unjust. Chartier uses a combination of justice and consequentialist arguments, but writes from a leftist perspective. It’s hard to say which book I liked the best or the least. They each have their strengths and drawbacks.
Tom Woods is quoted on the back cover of Casey’s book as saying:
Gerard Casey has written a truly astonishing book, one that relentlessly dismantles some of the most deeply embedded presumptions in political philosophy. From now on, this will be the first book I use to persuade someone who insists on the vast benefits the state provides. A lasting and vastly significant addition to the literature.
I am hesitant to agree that Casey’s book is as absolutely wonderful as Woods makes it sound. Don’t get me wrong; the book was very good. It’s just that I came up with several criticisms of it as I read. Of course, it’s likely that I’ll have several criticisms for every book on political philosophy that I read so maybe I should wait until I’ve read a few classics, such as Murray Rothbard’s For a New Liberty and Morris and Linda Tannehill’s The Market for Liberty, before saying that Casey’s book was not brilliant. In the mean time I’ll just point out one criticism I had.
In the middle of Chapter 3: Liberty and Libertarianism, Casey randomly changes the subject from political philosophy to metaphysics for a few pages (48-51) to express his support of metaphysical libertarianism. Note that I’m not a metaphysical libertarian and I think Casey’s argument against determinism is simply false. However, even if I did agree with him, I see no reason why he should have inserted a discussion of the subject into the middle of a chapter on political philosophy. I don’t want to take up this blog post quoting him at length and explaining why his argument fails, so I’ll skip that discussion and instead quote Casey’s bold introduction:
The criminal state
States are criminal organizations. All states, not just the obviously totalitarian or repressive ones. The only possible exceptions to this sweeping claim are those mini-states that are, in effect, swollen bits of private property, such as the Vatican. I intend this statement to be understood literally and not as some form of rhetorical exaggeration. The argument is simple. Theft, robbery, kidnapping and murder are all crimes. Those who engage in such activities, whether on their own behalf or on behalf of others are, by definition, criminals. In taxing the people of a country, the state engages in an activity that is morally equivalent to theft or robbery; in putting some people in prison, especially those who are convicted of so-called victimless crimes or when it drafts people into the armed services, the state is guilty of kidnapping or false imprisonment; in engaging in wars that are other than purely defensive or, even if defensive, when the means of defence employed are disproportionate and indiscriminate, the state is guilty of manslaughter or murder.