Peace Requires Anarchy


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Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law”

In his 1850 essay, The Law, classical liberal economist Frederic Bastiat wrote:

Law is justice. In this proposition a simple and enduring government can be conceived. And I defy anyone to say how even the thought of revolution, of insurrection, of the slightest uprising could arise against a government whose organized force was confined only to suppressing injustice.

Well, Mr. Bastiat, like you I would much prefer to live under such a limited government than to live under the government that I currently live under or the government that you lived under. The fact is, however, that such a government still amounts to tyranny as all governments necessarily do.

I will thus answer your challenge: “the thought of revolution, of insurrection, of the slightest uprising… against a government whose organized force was confined only to suppressing injustice” could arise from almost anywhere.

For example, imagine someone wants to purchase better quality or less expensive injustice-suppressing services from a different person or business wishing to sell such services. Your ideal government would violently prevent this competition from occurring by forcing its citizens to continue to pay taxes to fund its own injustice-suppressing services, would it not? If not, then is your ideal “government” really a government?

For a second example, imagine someone thinks that your government’s police force spends an unnecessary amount of money repressing injustice. Perhaps a bodyguard is hired for each family to make sure that no family gets attacked. I am sure that many people would deem this unnecessary and would not wish to purchase such expensive injustice-repressing services. Again, your government would tax these people against their will to take their money by force to fund its injustice-suppressing services, would it not? If it would not then I contend that what you advocate is not a government at all.

As a third example, imagine that your ideal government decides that the consumption of certain substances, such as marijuana or alcohol, is a crime. I could imagine it repressing these “injustices” despite how some of its citizens disagree that such acts are criminal. I could thus imagine someone wishing not to purchase your government’s injustice-repressing services for the simple reason that some of the acts that get suppressed are peaceful acts that people are free to make, not crimes. Once again, are people free to choose not to purchase the injustice-suppressing services of your ideal government? If they are, then what you propose is not a government at all. And if they are not, then this is the answer to your challenge.

Many years after your time philosopher Roderick T. Long wrote, “A consistent peace activist must be an anarchist.” He was right.

Your phrase “legal plunder” applies to taxation used to fund any goods and services, even the service of law itself.