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

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 27 18:21:30 UTC 2011

On Tuesday, September 27, 2011 10:56 AM David Lubkin lubkin at unreasonable.com wrote:
> 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 problem with this view is that if taxation is used to support the "armies, police, courts," then the libertarian principle is violated: force has been initiated. Thus, to be consistent, one has to either accept the principle and not use taxes to support those functions -- any more than one would use taxes to support hospitals, schools, and roads -- or one must deny the principle -- allowing that force can be initiated just as long as the initiation is done for the right reasons. The former position is, in my view, the consistent libertarian one and ends in anarchism, which is, in my view, the correct view to take. The latter position is the statist one and would end in quibbles over what government functions are essential with the only difference between the so called libertarian and any other variety of statist being which favored programs and policies get tax funds (and which ones don't).
> 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.
Knowing many actual minarchists, I'm not so sure. Minarchists -- people who believe in a libertarian state (an oxymoron by my reckoning) -- are often the most vehements critics of anarchism in any form, including market anarchism. Granted, some minarchists do, no doubt, become anarchists; probably most market anarchists went through an evolution from minarchist to anarchist. But that most market anarchists were once minarchists doesn't mean most minarchists will become anarchists. (An analogy might prove helpful here. Most atheists in the West today probably came from a monotheist background -- not a polytheist one. From that, though, it doesn't follow that if you meet a polytheist, you want to convert him to an Abrahamic faith in hopes that she'll eventually become an atheist.)
Aside from this quibble, almost any function government has done has been done privately and voluntarily before. So, for those interested in whether a private and voluntary solution is possible, it's usually good to look at history and see where it has been done privately and voluntarily. (This doesn't mean, however, that all functions must be privatized. I certainly don't want a private DEA harassing people for using recreational substances others don't want them using.) This does apply to security and dispute resolution. Today in some places and at various other times in history, these have been done voluntarily and privately. What's more, this has often gone on for a long period of time, such as several generations or centuries, so it's not like one month with a private voluntarily funded fire squad in one tiny hamlet -- an example which would prove almost nothing in my mind.
> One important aspect of "armies" is what do you do with them.
>From a libertarian perspective, one thing you don't do with them is initiate force. Another thing is, as mentioned above, you can't initiate force to fund or otherwise support them; in other words, you can't force people to pay for armies.
> 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.

I think libertarianism as such allows for people to protect the individual negative rights of others, but only if those others aren't against this AND this can never be used as a pretext to violate rights, such as by stealing from still others to pay for this. Those who pretend to be libertarians but support current wars and police actions seem to ignore this if they don't openly set aside the libertarian principle. These wars are not only supported with tax money, but also violate the rights of innocents, especially innocent foreigners.
> 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.
See above.
> 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.
Correct, provided this private group does no violate rights in the process.

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list