I recently cringed my way through an article entitled Sorry Libertarian Anarchists, Capitalism Requires Government, written by Harry Binswanger, a member of the board of directors of the Ayn Rand Institute, and published over at Forbes.
The article is an excellent example of the pro-state argument presented by those who simply cannot grasp the concept of society functioning without the state, and so argue against it within the context of society functioning within the state. And taking such position also demonstrates their overall lack of understanding of free market economics.
This is the type of argument I’ve so often pointed out to be difficult for anarchists/voluntaryists to refute, due to the inherent “contextual dichotomy” (see my article The Voluntaryist’s Dilemma: How Contextual Dichotomy Inhibits Sociological & Political Discourse). You have one side making the pro-state argument within the context of a “stated” society, and the other side making the pro-anarchy argument within the context of a stateless society—then round and round we go, and never the twain shall meet.
Upon discovering the attached gem, I had hoped to provide more in-depth analysis or refutation; but not only is the author’s entire argument based upon a false premise, but it was difficult to read all the way through to the end, because it devolved so badly into incoherent, intelligent-sounding gibberish that I was barely able to finish reading it. It’s difficult to believe this guy even gets published.
I suppose at a minimum, I could identify the point at which the author careens into false-premise territory:
“The anarchists do not object to retaliatory force, only to it being wielded by a government. Why? Because, they say, it excludes “competitors.” It sure does: it excludes vigilantes, lynch mobs, terrorists, and anyone else wanting to use force subjectively.”
Now, you see what he’s done there? He’s quietly shifted the proposition from one of competing *voluntary* services, to one of competing *involuntary*, or coerced, services. He’s not talking about security or protection services provided by private enterprise operating in a free marketplace (and therefore subject to market forces), but of competing governing bodies, or gangs using force and guns (and therefore NOT subject to market forces), to force such “services” onto others.
And the author reinforces his false premise later in the article:
“Economic competition presupposes a free market. A free market cannot exist until after force has been barred. That means objective law, backed up by a government. To say it can be backed up by “competing” force-wielders is circular.”
For one, how can he say “a free market cannot exist until after force has been barred,” then immediately follow that up with “that means objective law, backed by a government” (i.e., the use of force). Man, talk about circular…
So again, he assumes that without the state, the role of protection would be filled by violent “force-wielders”, rather than private enterprise offering such services on a voluntary basis within a free marketplace.
It has been my experience, after participating in many, many such debates, that for whatever reason, many people simply cannot grasp the concept of life, of society, devoid of the state and of the inherent use of force. Either it’s so ingrained in their minds they simply cannot separate it out of their thought processes, or they secretly (or perhaps subconsciously) prefer having the state around, if only to use as a tool by which they can use force against others for their own ends.
In response to this seemingly insurmountable obstacle within my opponents’ thought processes, I’ve developed the world’s smallest ideological quiz. Simply fill in the blank:
“I believe that the initiation of force or violence against innocent people is morally justified when____________.”
If you answered “never”, then you are a Voluntaryist; if you gave any other answer besides “never”, you are a statist. (This quiz also helps determine how many people are truly Voluntaryists, they just don’t realize it (yet)).
So, which are you?