[ExI] Is there a potential libertarianism / democracy tension?

David Lubkin lubkin at unreasonable.com
Tue Sep 27 14:56:22 UTC 2011

Amon Zero wrote:

>What I'm curious about, is why (or indeed if) it is ok for 
>libertarians to advocate taxation to support "Night Watchman" State 
>functions (army, police, courts), but other arguably essential 
>functions such as healthcare are beyond the pale?
>The two answers I'm familiar with are that (A) no taxation is ok at 
>all, army etc should also be private, and (B) army/police/courts are 
>essential or can be privatized, whereas (e.g.) healthcare is not or cannot.
>Since we're highly unlikely to argue one another around to each 
>other's point of view I won't be tempted to deconstruct your 
>arguments (assuming i could!), but I am genuinely curious what 
>principle draws a line between armies and hospitals. I could 
>understand the line being drawn there by some libertarians and not 
>others, but I have been given the impression that this is tantamount 
>to a definition of libertarianism; that tax for armies/police/courts 
>is ok but nothing else is. Would you agree?

The philosophical approach is that the only libertarian principle is
non-initiation of force or fraud and the only legitimate government
function is enforcing that principle. Thus armies, police, courts,
not hospitals.

The pragmatic approach is asking whether a completely private
version of this function can work. I see minarchists as agnostic
on AnCap -- open to the idea but not convinced. They are
swayable by argument and evidence.

One important aspect of "armies" is what do you do with them.

I take defense of others to be a legitimate use of force, as a
delegated self-defense. Hence, police and armies. If my neighbor
is putting his wife into a wood chipper, I think I can reasonably
conclude that this isn't consensual and take action on her behalf.
If Saddam is doing the same thing, which he did, there is a fair
question -- and subsequent divide among libertarians -- of what
to do about it.

Some libertarians will argue that military has a legitimate role
only in *defending* and only in defending *us*. Others see a short-
or long-term threat to the nation that warrants action. Others make
a defense of others argument.

But uniting all three is (I think) no objection to a domestic group
voluntarily forming their own army and deploying it overseas for
defense of others missions.

-- David.

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