Seven virtuous ideas that require anarchy

There are many virtuous ideas which most people wish to see spread to all of humanity. But contrary to the seemingly endless propaganda that is fed to us from government-approved sources about how the state is necessary for these ideas to be fulfilled, these ideas are actually incompatible with any kind of state. Let us look at seven virtuous ideas and see why they require anarchy.

Rule of law requires anarchy. Rule of law is the idea that people should be governed by laws rather than by the arbitrary decisions of rulers. A state is a group of people who exercise a monopoly on initiatory force in a certain geographical area. People who have a monopoly on initiatory force necessarily have a monopoly on the enforcement of laws. This means that they can choose the nature of the law and the enforcement thereof. Thus, in the presence of a state, those who wield state power rule the law. The law does not rule them. Therefore, the only possibility for rule of law is to have no state.

Freedom of association requires anarchy. Freedom of association is the right to choose those with whom one associates. A private person or business may not force peers or customers to associate with them. Criminals may try to do so, but they will suffer legal consequences from the state for doing so. One aspect that distinguishes the state from other people or organizations is that the state forces people to pay for and use its services and suffers no legal consequences for doing so. This violates freedom of association. Therefore, the only possibility for freedom of association is to have no state.

Peace requires anarchy. Peace is the status of being free from violence. A state is a group of people who exercise a monopoly on initiatory force in a certain geographical area. Initiatory force involves the use of violence. Thus, in the presence of a state, those who wield state power will always be a threat to peace. Therefore, the only possibility for peace is to have no state.

Justice requires anarchy. Justice is the process and result of dealing with disputes in an impartial manner. In the presence of a state, its agents are allowed to do that which is considered criminal for anyone else to do; namely, functions of the state which involve initiatory force. If some people are allowed to perform certain actions that others are forbidden to perform, then members of the former group of people will not be treated impartially with respect to members of the latter group of people. Therefore, the only possibility for justice is to have no state.

Equality requires anarchy. In the presence of a state, its power will be sought by various special interest groups who seek favors from the state. But those favors must come from somewhere. As the state does not create, but rather steals, redistributes, and consumes, what it gives to some must be taken from others. Organizations for the advancement of a particular gender identity will thus be implicitly advocating against any other gender identity. Whichever gender identity has the most successful advocacy organizations will thereby have inequality in its favor. Therefore, the only possibility for gender equality is to have no state. This argument may be restated for ethnicity, age groups, the disabled, or any other classification of people.

Private property rights require anarchy. Private property is property which a individual has an exclusive right to control and use. In the presence of a state, the state will fund its activities through taxation, which is the taking of private property for state use. If any person or organization may take property from its rightful owner without penalty, then the owner’s right to exclusive control and use has been violated. Therefore, the only possibility for private property rights is to have no state.

Liberty requires anarchy. Liberty is the freedom to do as one wishes while respecting the right of other people to do likewise. While anarchism offers no guarantee that the simple absence of a state will be sufficient to give us liberty, logic shows that anarchism is a necessary precondition of liberty. As shown above, the state makes liberty impossible, so the only possibility for liberty is to have no state.

How would X work without the state?

In discussions about libertarianism, people will frequently ask how a particular good or service that is currently monopolized by the state. These questions are important, and a free society will have to find answers to them. But in the course of argumentation, such questions tend to be a trap. The intent behind such a question is frequently to derail the conversation by going deep into the weeds on a particular topic, where the libertarian can be lost in endless proposals and criticisms. Before attempting to answer how X would be supplied or work without the state (where X can be any good or service currently monopolized by the state), one should point out a few things.

The first thing to note is that no statist of any kind has legitimacy to ask such a question. A statist supports the operation of a state of some kind. The state is a group of people who exercise a monopoly on initiatory force within a certain geographical area. When the state monopolizes any good or service, its agents exercise their monopoly on initiatory force to stop competing good or service providers from operating. While a few basic aspects of good or service provision may be deduced a priori, competing providers must operate in order to provide the empirical evidence necessary to know the details of how X would work without the state. Thus, a statist who asks how X would work without the state is supporting efforts to destroy an experiment while asking for the results of said experiment. This is a contradiction, and contradictions equal falsehood. Therefore, only an anarchist may legitimately ask how X would work without the state.

The next matter of importance is the moral aspect of the question. Let us begin with argumentation ethics. When people agree to engage in rational argumentation, they implicitly accept certain behavioral norms. Among these are that truth is universally preferable to falsehood, that reason is universally preferable to initiatory force, and that one will make an effort to persuade others of one’s philosophical position. (This does not mean that all people at all times will believe this and behave accordingly; only that they should.) These norms must be accepted because if truth is not universally preferable to falsehood, then the argumentation may be dishonest and irrational, tending toward deception and fraud; if reason is not universally preferable to initiatory force, then engaging in argumentation rather than resorting to force is a performative contradiction; and if one is not going to make an effort to persuade others of one’s philosophical position, then the argumentation lacks meaning and purpose. The non-aggression principle, which condemns all initiatory force, is therefore impossible to argue against. As the state is based upon initiatory force, it is inherently immoral. As such, the question of how X would work without the state is morally irrelevant. One might as well ask, “If we free the slaves, who will pick the cotton?”

Finally, one should point out that X frequently works poorly with the state monopolizing it. The roads frequently have potholes. The schools frequently indoctrinate children with a pro-state, anti-liberty worldview while failing to teach them useful information. The restaurants are frequently inspected at times when the owners have been given advance warning to eliminate any improprieties. Medicines are frequently held up by government regulations and kept from people who could be saved from death by them. The police are frequently more hazardous to people who are respecting people and property than the criminals they are supposed to help defend against. The military frequently murders innocent people overseas, thereby helping to motivate new enemies faster than current enemies can be killed. The electrical grid is one computer hacking or solar storm away from returning all of us to the 19th century. Suffice it to say that in most cases, the bar above which a free society must operate is set quite low.

None of this is to say that the question of how X would work without the state is unimportant, or that one should not make an effort to answer it. But to do so blindly without contemplation of the motivation of the questioner, the moral irrelevancy of utility, or the horrible jobs that state monopolies tend to do is a mistake.

How an anarcho-capitalist society could save us from parades

This past weekend, the annual local Christmas parade passed by my house, just like always. (Except for last year, when a hard rain thankfully cancelled the parade for the first time in its 40 year history.) And just like always, hundreds of people parked in the fields near the house. Unfortunately, these people tend to be inebriated and lacking in respect for private property. My family and I routinely had to run people out of the various sheds on the property, as they might be harmed by the sharp objects, heavy objects, farming chemicals, and other such hazards therein. In one instance, a random person told others that they could use one of our sheds as a place to urinate. This occurred because the parade organizers never bring enough portable toilets. Someone even had the temerity to drive all over the fields behind the house and out of view of the parade. The day after the parade, we had to clean up broken beer bottles, empty tobacco packs, fast food, and other such garbage left as litter on the property’s road frontage. Unlike previous years, no cleanup crew came by to help us do this.

Naturally, a libertarian can become quite dismayed, disgusted even, at seeing people behave this way. We tried to rope off the yard, but some people just knocked this down and parked anyway. We had “no hunting” signs up, but still found that someone had left spent shotgun shells near the road. (I can only assume that they aimed at some wild turkeys or geese that occasionally visit the property.) The local police officers were of little help; they only sat at the road watching the parade and looked for trouble in the immediate vicinity of the parade. They did nothing about the various transgressions that occurred elsewhere.

As I thought about the events that transpired, I realized that something foundational is very wrong to allow such violations to occur, let alone go unpunished. Then, an epiphany came to me. The reason that any of this can happen is that roads and the land immediately next to it are not private property; they are government-occupied property. The parade organizers can depend on the local government to close off normal traffic on the road to allow the parade to take place. As no one really has an ownership stake in the property and the damage is not typically of a sort that can be dealt with by the courts, there is no incentive to take good care of it.

In an anarcho-capitalist society, carrying out a parade would not be nearly as easy. Without a state, all property would be in private hands, including the roads. A parade organizer would need permission from every person who owns part of the road between the starting point and ending point of the parade in order to carry out the parade. If even one person with a claim on the parade route wished to stop the parade, he could do so, even to the point of using force to defend his property from trespassers. As such, the parade organizer would need to make sure that property damage, trespassing, and litter are kept to a minimum in order to prevent the private property owners from banning the parade in the future. This would mean that private police would need to protect the properties and property owners along the parade route, and as they would be contracted to do a job for the parade organizers and also be subject to the review of the property owners, they would have to do a much better job than the local government police currently do. This would also mean that the parade organizers would have to rent a sufficient number of portable toilets to keep the parade watchers from using people’s yards. Finally, this would mean that a cleanup crew would have to be hired to restore the properties to their original condition, free of parade garbage. Clearly, if we want better parades or just to have freedom from parades in our front yards, an anarcho-capitalist society is the way to go.

A response to arguments against the CIA torture report

On Dec. 9, the CIA released a report detailing the use of enhanced interrogation techniques against captured terrorists during the Bush administration following the 9/11 attacks. The report describes what was done to who and when for the 119 known individuals who were held in CIA custody.

Reaction to the report has been mixed, with civil libertarians arguing that the American people have a right to know what has been done in their name and that the activities of the CIA were unjustifiable. National security statists counter that releasing the report threatens the safety of Americans overseas and that the ends of preventing terrorist attacks justify the means employed. Let us examine some of the common arguments made by national security statists.

1. The methods used were not torture. The methods used violate the Geneva Convention if it is construed to apply to unlawful combatants (the enhanced interrogation program’s supporters claim it should not be). They would also violate the Eighth Amendment if they were applied to U.S. citizens. One need only go through the list of techniques to dismiss this argument out of hand.

2. The methods used were effective and necessary. The report indicates that the methods used were not more effective than non-enhanced interrogations. Even so, it is impossible to know this for certain. One would have to examine an alternate timeline where no torture methods were used and compare the results, and this is not possible. As for torture being necessary, the ends cannot justify the means.

3. People died in worse ways on 9/11, so it was acceptable to subject terror suspects to enhanced interrogations. The hijackers who committed the crimes of 9/11 died in the attacks as well, and responsibility for crimes must die with the people who commit them. That being said, other people besides the hijackers acquired vicarious liability for aiding and abetting their efforts. It must also be noted that a threat to initiate the use of force counts as an initiation of the use of force, and that violating a fundamental right of another person while claiming the same right for oneself is logically invalid. Therefore, a person who is not just suspected, but is known to be involved in planning, aiding, or carrying out terrorist attacks is violating the right of other people to exclusive control over their own bodies, and is estopped from claiming self-ownership. Thus, there is no moral prohibition against torturing such a person, especially as a use of defensive force to prevent a terrorist attack that would kill innocent people.

4. The report is ill-formed because no interviews of CIA officials were conducted. This is cause for suspicion, not cause for rejection. Further evidence is needed to show that something untoward has occurred, and interviews of CIA officials should be conducted in order to obtain a more complete account of the events that took place.

5. The report is unimportant because the information was already public knowledge. The general nature of the operations were public knowledge, but the details were not. It is important for every American to be able to know exactly what has been done by agents of an institution that claims to represent their interests throughout the world.

6. The release of this information will cause more attacks against Americans. Again, it is impossible to know this sort of information for certain. One would have to examine an alternate timeline where the report was not released and compare the results, and this is not possible.

7. The release of this information should have been done at a different time. To quote Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), “This clearly is a period of turmoil and instability in many parts of the world. Unfortunately, that’s going to continue into the foreseeable future whether this report is released or not.”

8. The release of this information was politically motivated. All actions involving politicians are politically motivated to some extent, so this is true but trivial.

NYPD officer gets away with murder of Eric Garner

On Dec. 3, a grand jury in Staten Island returned a no true bill in the matter of the death of Eric Garner, who was killed by NYPD officer Daniel Pantoleo on July 17.

At about 5:00 p.m. EDT on July 17, Garner was allegedly selling bootlegged cigarettes in the Tompkinsville area of Staten Island, N.Y. This fact was disputed by multiple witnesses, who said he had instead been trying to break up a fight between two people who left the scene before police arrived. A video of the interaction between Garner and police shows Garner shouting, “Why you touching me? I didn’t sell anything! I was breaking up a fight!” More than five officers took Garner to the ground, and Pantoleo maintained a chokehold on Garner well after he lost consciousness. Garner said, “I can’t breathe!,” several times before losing consciousness. The police called an ambulance for him, but it was too late. The New York City medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide on Aug. 1, finding that while Garner’s poor health was a contributing factor to his death, the actions of police officers were the primary cause of death.

This case demonstrates that while cameras on police are statistically shown to lower police use of force and citizen complaints against police, they alone will not stop police abuse. Nor are recordings apparently enough to overcome the biases inherent in the grand jury system. That being said, it is not clear whether the officers knew their actions against Garner were being filmed, and they may have acted differently if they had been wearing cameras.

The decision today also illustrates why the state should not have a monopoly on criminal justice. The other officers involved were given immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony. As the state has a monopoly on criminal justice, this means that any criminal responsibility on their part will likely go unpunished. Note also that their testimony likely supported Officer Pantoleo, as the rational self-interest of a police officer is to support another police officer. As for Pantoleo, a government agent being tried in a government court by a government prosecutor is a conflict of interest if ever there was one. And unlike the Michael Brown case, there is clear video evidence of the events that took place, leaving little room for doubt about the criminality of the officer. The saying is that a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich, and an indictment could have been obtained if the prosecutor had so desired. If there were a free market for criminal justice, outcomes like this would be far less likely, as the victim’s family could choose from a number of competing service providers, each seeking to provide the best justice for the crime committed.

The prosecutor did not even present all viable charges. In New York, “A person is guilty of murder in the first degree when: With intent to cause the death of another person, he causes the death of such person or of a third person; and the defendant acted in an especially cruel and wanton manner pursuant to a course of conduct intended to inflict and inflicting torture upon the victim prior to the victim’s death, and the defendant was more than eighteen years old at the time of the commission of the crime.” A reasonable person would be expected to know that keeping someone in a chokehold after they lose consciousness is an act that can cause death, and that one does not perform an act that one knows can cause death without an intent to cause death. A reasonable person would also be expected to know that choking out a person who has not damaged any person or property despite the person’s health problems and protests of being unable to breathe is “an especially cruel and wanton manner pursuant to a course of conduct intended to inflict and inflicting torture upon the victim.” In another case earlier this year, a man pleaded guilty to first degree murder charges in New York for choking someone to death, so there is legal precedent for such a charge.