Peace Requires Anarchy


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“Beyond Democracy” – Short, Accessible and Highly Readable

Following is my Amazon review for Frank Karsten and Karel Beckman’s book Beyond Democracy, which I received when I made a $25 donation to Tomasz Kaye’s crowd-funding campaign for his wonderful short animated film You Can Always Leave, the sequel to the famous George Ought to Help:

The main merit of this book is its short, accessible, and highly readable defense of the view that there are better ways to organize society than democracy. Any friend, co-worker, or family member could get through this book, even if he or she has no interest in politics.

I am a libertarian anarchist and strongly agree with the authors’ opposition to democratic governments. I fully understand that there is a shortage of libertarian books that are accessible to the general public. In fact, the only other libertarian book I am aware of that is of comparable accessibility and readability to “Beyond Democracy” is Dr. Mary J. Ruwart’s book Healing Our World.

You may thus be wondering, why am I giving “Beyond Democracy” only three stars?

My reason is that I do not think that the arguments contained within the book are good enough to persuade scholars, academics, or even average passionate supporters of other political ideologies to support libertarianism and oppose democracy. I think more rigorous arguments must be provided to defend the libertarian position.

You might point out that the purpose of this book was to reach a general audience, not to persuade intellectuals, so my low rating is not deserved. But, the reality is that that some of the people who read this book who support democracy and are skeptical of libertarianism may not be persuaded by the simple arguments contained within the book.

It is to them I wish to say: this is not the best book out there. Do not conclude that the views expressed in “Beyond Democracy” are “laughable” until you have read more rigorous defenses of them, as can be found in such books as Murray Rothbard’s For a New Liberty, Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Democracy–The God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Order, and Michael Huemer’s The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey.

Note that I have not read Hoppe’s “Democracy–The God That Failed,” yet I listed it anyway since my understanding is that many libertarians who have read it believe it provides a strong argument against democratic governments. In fact, it is mentioned in the postscript of “Beyond Democracy”:

Mises and Rothbard never produced a rigorous analysis of the phenomenon of democracy. The first libertarian thinker to do so is the German economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe, who lives and works in the US. His book Democracy — The God that Failed (2001) is for the time being the standard libertarian work in this area. [page 91]

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“The Problem of Political Authority” by Professor Michael Huemer

The Problem of Political Authority | Michael Huemer

The Problem of Political Authority

Michael Huemer is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he has worked since 1998. He is also an anarcho-capitalist.

His book “The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey” is divided into two parts. The thesis of Part One is that no government (nor other person or group) genuinely possesses the special moral status called political authority. I already agreed with the thesis before I began reading, but I must say that I have never seen it argued so well. I interrupt my reading of the book to tell you about it.

Huemer bases his argument on common sense moral premises that essentially everyone already accepts. He has said that he believes this approach of arguing for libertarian political views is superior to using rights-based arguments or economic arguments. Two weeks ago I wasn’t so sure. I said that I would wait until I read his book to decide whether or not I agree that the common sense approach to arguing for libertarianism is best. Now that I have read Part One of his book I can say confidently: I agree, definitely. This is the kind of argument that is most likely to be effective at converting the masses of intelligent people to libertarian anarchism.

Bryan Caplan has said:

I’ve read almost every major work of libertarian political philosophy ever published.  In my view, Michael Huemer’s new The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey is the best book in the genre.

I assumed this was exaggerated, but surprisingly it may not be. Of the books I have read, including Murray Rothbard’s “For a New Liberty,” David Friedman’s “The Machinery of Freedom,” Gary Chartier’s “The Conscience of an Anarchist,” Gerard Casey’s “Libertarian Anarchism: Against the State” and many essays and other works related to libertarianism including classics such as Lysander Spooner’s famous essay “No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority,” Part One of Michael Huemer’s “The Problem of Political Authority” is simply the best.

Michael Huemer

Professor Michael Huemer

Whether you are a libertarian or not, you should purchase a copy of Michael Huemer’s “The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey.” I recommend it, more highly than I’ve ever recommended any book, essay, article, or other work before.

After you buy it on Amazon, you can read the first chapter which is available online.

Now I am going to read Part Two, in which Huemer argues the practical case for anarcho-capitalism. His thesis is that “a livable society could exist with no recognized central authority.” Note that, in addition to the thesis of Part One, it is necessary to argue this thesis to convert the reader to anarcho-capitalism, because without it minimal state libertarianism would be justified since common sense morality dictates that aggressive coercion can be justified if it is necessary to avoid a sufficiently great harm. Huemer’s lead essay for Cato, “The Problem of Authority,” which summarizes the content of his book well, elaborates on the need for this second thesis.

UPDATE 08/21/2013: I finished reading Mike Huemer’s The Problem of Political Authority today. It is better than any other book on libertarian political philosophy I have read. I highly recommend it.

I really think his “common sense morality” approach to defending libertarianism (as opposed to the rights-based approach or the consequentialist economic argument approach) is most likely to be the most effective way to persuade people to reject political authority and embrace libertarian anarchism.

Other Blog Posts on The Problem of Political Authority:


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The Free State Solution (2013)

This 20-minute documentary is the best introduction to the Free State Project I have seen.

Please share it far and wide to help achieve Liberty in Our Lifetime. Peace.

Free State Project - Community Liberty Peace


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Implicit Contracts as an Argument Against Evictionism?

The first time I encountered the argument that there exist implicit contracts between mothers and their fetuses that make it so the mothers do not have the right to evict the fetuses from their bodies was when Mark Stoval made the argument in his post, “Murray Rothbard and I Disagreed on Abortion and Child Abandonment.”

I recently encountered the argument again in Jakub Wisniewski’s essay, “Response to Block on Abortion, Round Three,” and felt the need to respond more clearly, since I still do not believe the argument succeeds. Wisniewski writes:

[Walter] Block tries to show the supposed untenability of my reliance on the principle of pacta sunt servanda on the grounds that “at the time of intercourse (…) there is no one for the voluntarily pregnant woman to have a contract with!” True, but why should we treat intercourse rather than conception as the moment at which the relevant, binding decisions take place? since, obviously enough, no contract (even an implicit one) can be made with the fetus before it comes into existence, it seems only natural to think of the moment at which it comes into existence–i.e., conception–as the moment at which the mother, who voluntarily invites a new potential human being into her womb (i.e., voluntarily allows it to appear there), makes an implicit contract with it. Block’s attempt to portray intercourse as the relevant point of focus appears to involve a significant mischaracterization of the situation.

But the mother does not necessarily “voluntarily invite a new potential human being into her womb (i.e., voluntarily allow it to appear there)”, even if she did have consensual intercourse. At the moment of conception and perhaps the moment right before conception, the mother may be thinking, “Oh no, there are sperm cells and an egg cell inside me. I hope they don’t fuse and form a human being because I don’t want a human inside me. If I could do something to prevent a human from appearing inside me I would, but it is out of my control whether the sperm and egg fuse together or not.”

It’s clear that she’s not inviting a human inside her (i.e. voluntarily allowing it to appear inside her) since she is explicitly stating that she doesn’t want the sperm and egg to fuse together (i.e. she doesn’t want a human to appear inside her) and since she can’t control whether or not the sperm and egg happen to fuse together and cause a human to appear anyway.

So I disagree with Wisniewski’s position that whenever a woman has consensual intercourse and gets pregnant, she makes an implicit contract at the time of conception with the new human in which she agrees to carry the fetus to term.

Allow me to make the argument again in the form of a hypothetical conversation between Wisniewski and a woman for the sake of clarifying the argument:

Woman: I recently voluntarily allowed some sperm cells into my body. Currently they are moving around and there is a chance that one of them will fuse with an egg cell and form a new human being. There is nothing I can do to prevent one of them from fusing with an egg cell causing a new human being to form. If a sperm and egg do fuse together forming a new human, I will evict the human from my body.

Wisniewski: But that would be unjust to evict the human from your body.

Woman: Why would it be unjust?

Wisniewski: Because you would have formed an implicit contract with the human in which you agreed not to evict it from your body.

Woman: When would I have made this contract?

Wisniewski: At the moment of conception.

Woman: But I am saying right now that I don’t want the human to appear inside me and that I don’t agree to let it stay inside me if it happens to appear. And soon, when the moment of conception arrives (assuming it does arrive), my will won’t be any different. So how can you say that I would make an implicit contract with those terms if I am explicitly stating now that I do not agree to the terms of the contract and if at the time you say the implicit contract is made I am still explicitly stating that I do not agree to the terms of the contract?

Wisniewski: That’s a good question. Maybe my argument is mistaken. I think I might have assumed that the fact that you consensually had intercourse means that you would later (at the moment of conception) agree to have the human appear inside you. But now that you point out that it does not make sense to say that a person makes an implicit contract if that person is explicitly stating (at the time that the alleged implicit contract is made) that they don’t agree with the terms of the contract, I realize that this was a false assumption.

So in summary, I disagree with Wisniewski’s position that an implicit contract between the mother and new human obliging the mother to carry the fetus to term is made at the time of conception.

However, I am not sure that I fully agree with Walter Block. In Wisniewski’s essay, “A Critque of Block on Abortion and Child Abandonment,” he writes:

Further, he [Block] denies that the voluntariness of the pregnancy obliges the woman to carry the fetus to term; such an obligation could stem only from there being an implicit contract between the two, and Block denies the existence of any such contract on the ground that one cannot consent (even implicitly) to any decision made before one came into being.

While I agree with Block that no such contract (even an implicit one) between the mother and fetus exists (as I argued above), I disagree with Block in that I don’t think that such an obligation for the woman to carry the fetus to term could only stem from a contract between the mother and fetus.

For example, could such an obligation not also stem from a contract between the mother and father? The father could say, “I will not have intercourse with you unless you contractually agree that if you get pregnant as a result then you will carry the fetus to term (unless doing so threatens your own life, etc.).”

If such a contract is legitimate, this would not mean that all evictions should be illegal, because it would not necessarily be the case that all fathers and mothers would make such a contract. However, for those possibly-soon-to-be-fathers concerned about eviction, they could make contracts like this with their partners and if their partners ended up becoming pregnant they would not have the right to evict their fetuses.


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War, Peace, and the State | Murray Rothbard

RothbardSmile

All government wars are unjust.”
– Murray N. Rothbard

Anthony Gregory has said “Every libertarian should read this article once a year,” in reference to Murray N. Rothbard’s essay War, Peace, and the State.

While I did not find it as impressive as Rothbard’s essay The Anatomy of the State, it is definitely an important work.

In the essay, Rothbard agrees with a critic who says that the libertarian movement does not have its priorities right. Specifically, many libertarians spend a lot of time worrying about issues such as the “demunicipalization of garbage disposal” rather than the major problems of our time.

Rothbard then argues that the most significant issue of our time is war. He argues that all wars waged by states are aggressive and that states commit the worst crimes in wars. As Randolph Bourne realized, “War is the health of the State.”

In accordance with the objective of reducing the amount of aggression committed by the state, Rothbard calls for libertarians to make reducing the number of innocent people murdered by states in war their top priority. This is achieved first by pressuring states to not wage war:

The libertarian objective, then, should be, regardless of the specific causes of any conflict, to pressure States not to launch wars against other States and, should a war break out, to pressure them to sue for peace and negotiate a cease-fire and peace treaty as quickly as physically possible. [page 7]

Secondly, this is achieved by disarming states so that they are less capable of committing aggression in war:

Highest priority on any libertarian agenda, therefore, must be pressure on all States to agree to general and complete disarmament down to police levels, with particular stress on nuclear disarmament. In short, if we are to use our strategic intelligence, we must conclude that the dismantling of the greatest menace that has ever confronted the life and liberty of the human race is indeed far more important than demunicipalizing the garbage service. [page 9]

So go read antiwar.com and donate. War is indeed the worst part of the state. For those of you who wisely embrace a non-interventionist foreign policy and oppose war, but are not yet anarchists, please consider reading Roderick T. Long’s An Open Letter to the Peace Movement. Thank you.

UPDATE 03/11/2013: Tony Liberté just posted a comic called Ban Government Weapons on his Facebook page Libertarian Humor that I thought was very relevant to Rothbard’s message in this essay:

Tony wrote a note on his cartoon saying:

Unfortunately, not very funny, but so very true. Our priorities should be more on disarming our violent government, not leaving the citizens defenseless against it.

I definitely agree, as did Murray Rothbard.


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For a New Liberty | Murray Rothbard

It took over a month, but I finally finished reading a 432-page PDF copy of Murray Rothbard’s classic book For a New Liberty. I recommend buying an actual copy of the book. There’s no reason to suffer through a PDF like I did. I’m not going to again unless there are no hard copies of a work available.

Since For a New Liberty is such a well-known book, I’ll just mention a few quotes from the book that I found interesting. First, I added the following quote to the “How to Achieve a Free Society” section of my Quotes page (if you read the other quotes in the section you’ll notice an interesting theme):

If states have everywhere been run by an oligarchic group of predators, how have they been able to maintain their rule over the mass of the population? The answer, as the philosopher David Hume pointed out over two centuries ago, is that in the long run every government, no matter how dictatorial, rests on the support of the majority of its subjects. [page 66]

Murray Newton Rothbard

Rothbard makes another similar statement regarding the support that governments require to survive:

Whereas the existence of every government from absolute monarchy to military dictatorship rests on the consent of the majority of the public, a democratic government must engineer such consent on a more immediate, day-by-day basis. [page 24]

It is interesting that both times Rothbard says that the state requires the support of a majority of its subjects. David Friedman too says “government as a whole exists because most people believe it is necessary” (italics added for emphasis) (The Machinery of Freedom, page 83).

Of course there is nothing magical about 50% and it is doubtful that either Rothbard or Friedman literally meant that states need the support of exactly half of their subjects to survive. While it is possible that some states may indeed require the support of 50% of the public, in most cases the number is probably something different. But what is that number? 70%? 30%?

And also, the kind of support of course matters a lot. One can actively cheer a government on or even directly participate in its aggressive activities or one can merely passively support it. Opinion polls often show that much more than 50% of people are unsatisfied with the government that rules them, however of course many of those people still support the governments they are unsatisfied with in numerous ways.

What does someone have to do to not support the state at all? Can one unintentionally passively support the state just by sitting by quietly and not speaking out about it? Does one have to actively campaign against the state as an activist in order to completely withdraw one’s support and cooperation with the government?

Further, how many of these absolute non-supporters would be needed for a government to be brought down? For example, if the Free State Project was able to bring enough liberty activists to New Hampshire to make it so that 20% of people in New Hampshire were absolute non-supporters of government, would that be sufficient to render government powerless over those 20% of people even if the remaining 80% of people were as statist as the average person today?

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