Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Debunk: Why Anarcho-Capitalism is a Rationalistic Hoax

The Anarcho Capitalist argument was refined in the late '60s by Objectivist-influenced anarchists, such as Morris and Linda Tannehill, and the late Roy Childs. On its surface, it seems seductively simple and attractive. But on deeper analysis the fallacies become apparent. It's a rationalization. 

Cartoon: Anarcho Capitalist theorist, Stephan Molyneux. 

The "anarcho-capitalist" (AC) argument was refined in the late '60s by Objectivist-influenced anarchists, such as Morris and Linda Tannehill, and the late Roy Childs (who later changed his mind). On its surface, it seems seductively simple:
1. The initiation of coercion and force is immoral (Rand).

2. Government is an institution which maintains a legal monopoly on the retaliatory use of force in a given geographical area (Rand).

3. But to maintain a legal monopoly on the retaliatory use of force, a government must initiate coercive force to exclude competitors.

4. Hence, to exist as a legal monopoly on the retaliatory use of force, a government must employ immoral means.

5. Government is thus intrinsically immoral and self-contradictory.

6. Hence, Ayn Rand's pro-government position contradicts her basic ethics (Roy Childs' argument in his early essay, "The Contradiction in Objectivism").

This argument is a splendid instance of rationalism: it proceeds deductively from a limited set of premises which are presumed to include all the relevant considerations. But in fact, they do not. Here is just a sampler of the contextual considerations omitted.

The anarcho-capitalist position against a monopoly government is, at root, a rejection of the objective rule of law; the idea of any final arbiter on the use of force in society. AC defines the arbiter as "coercive," because it does not allow you to disagree with its final verdict. But who defines who is the aggressor, who is the victim? What is the nature of rights? How is the verdict enforced? Who determines which agency is a "protection agency," and which is a mere gang of aggressors? By what method and standard? Conflicting philosophies will lead to conflicting interpretations.

Under anarchy, there is no final determiner of the law. There would be no final standard for settling disputes. Law enforcement becomes practically impossible. And who would stand to gain under this option? Only the thugs, who would unilaterally declare themselves immune from anyone's arrest, prosecution or punishment. Either as individuals or in gangs, they would use force, unconstrained by the self-limitations adopted by the "good" agencies. This means de facto pacifism by the moral, in the face of the immoral.

Some enforcement framework must eventually arise and impose final verdicts on everyone. In practice, this would mean either (a) a dominant agency arises in the market, and enforces its interpretations and verdicts on everyone else, by coercion if necessary; or (b) a group of agencies decides to impose a mutually-agreed-upon framework on everyone.

In short, a single legal system and final arbiter mechanism would arise. Alas, this does not resolve the anarchist's dilemma. In either two (a) or (b), you have a de facto legal monopoly on the use of force. Anarchists can't evade this dilemma by making excursions to ancient Iceland or to science-fiction Utopias. The fact that the Icelandic model didn't last, ought to tell us something.

So, who would really rule the anarcho-capitalist Utopia? The same guys who rule it now. They would be elevated by the same popular constituency that now elects them. The only difference would be is that under AC, there'd be no institutional limits on their behavior. The answer to unlimited government is not the "unlimited democracy" of the Misesian marketplace. Mises knew better (read his Bureaucracy). But anarchist rationalists, like Rothbard, haven't yet figured out that "force" is not just like any other good or service on the marketplace.

The whole point of a single, constitutionally limited government is to limit force and coercion -- by private parties, and by the government itself. Ayn Rand argued that government was a means of subjecting might to morality. That's not a mere social luxury; it's a basic requirement of human survival. In any society, human life and well-being mandates that there be a set of objective procedures to distinguish aggression from self-defense, and some way of imposing the final verdicts upon both victimizers and victims.

It would be impossible for individuals to pursue self-interest within a social context if such determinations were never made -- or made arbitrarily -- or never enforced. Yet that's what AC would give us. It posits "competition" in the use of force, but more: "competition" in defining the rightful uses of force. To whom must these competing "protection agencies" ultimately answer? To what standard are their own actions and verdicts to be held? How can there be any, if a final arbiter (by definition, holding a legal monopoly on retaliatory force) is "inherently immoral?

A limited government does not outlaw "protective services": witness private bodyguards, security firms, etc. To be more precise, government (1) regulates the use of force by others, including "protective agencies," and (2) serves as the final arbiter in disputes over the use of force. It is over these functions alone that truly limited government declares a monopoly, and does not allow "competition."

What the anarcho-capitalist objects to is not government, but the fact that gives rise to the need for one: the need for outside, impartial observers to objectively evaluate and control the uses of force in society. In sum, what the anarcho-capitalist argument omits are the following vital contextual considerations that attend any use of force in society: that -- as a matter of individual survival in society -- one's use of force must be judged and evaluated by everyone else in society, by an objective procedure, in order to distinguish the aggressor from the victim (which is rarely self-evident); that, at some point, a final verdict by society on the use of force must be objectively rendered through that process, and that this final verdict must, at last, be imposed and enforced. Leaving it all to "the market" means: "to the whims of whichever individual or group has enough money to dominate those who don't."

Has it ever occurred to those who would so eagerly wed the gun with the dollar, why Ayn Rand argued for a separation between Force and Economics?

Full original article: The Contradiction in Anarchism, by Robert J. Bidinotto