[ExI] Some recent thoughts on minarchism
William Flynn Wallace
foozler83 at gmail.com
Sun Jan 23 15:01:08 UTC 2022
I have no background in political theory, but I do know people somewhat.
It starts with taxes: give an organization the ability to tax and then why
not raise taxes? The people want services, are demanding services, and so
the pols have the perfect excuse to raise taxes. Or better yet, borrow
money, which doesn't require public approval (often at the local level I
suppose people vote on bond issues). Bread and circuses - we all know
this. So the idea of a minimalist government seems like a pipe dream.
What we have now suggests a positive feedback cycle, eh? bill w
On Sat, Jan 22, 2022 at 10:54 PM Rafal Smigrodzki via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
> By temperament I am quite attracted to anarcho-capitalism as the ideal
> form of governance but I recognize that for it to flourish some rather
> special conditions are necessary. Failing that, minarchism or the minimal
> state seems like a great idea.
> What is a "minimal state"? How to determine what should be the purview of
> the state and what must be left for other forms of organization to
> Let me start out with efficiency. The minimal state is the one that is
> more efficient than alternatives that have either a smaller or larger scope
> of action. Perhaps I should call it the "optimal state" or "optimarchism",
> since I seek to optimize based on empirical and theoretical insights,
> rather than minimize as a matter of ideology but for the sake of continuity
> I will eschew neologisms. Efficiency here is the degree to which the goals
> of the individuals that comprise the society are fulfilled under the given
> Generally, the state as a form of organization is inefficient in achieving
> goals of individuals, due to its long feedback loops, lack of
> experimentation, lack of a meaningful exit option and other issues,
> compared to e.g. markets. This creates a strong presumption in favor of
> limiting the scope of state action but empirically we also know that some
> pressing social problems have not been adequately addressed by markets or
> intra-family interactions, so a reasonable person may support the existence
> of a state to take care of those non-market-able issues.
> Traditionally minarchist theory was based on the non-aggression principle
> and led to the endorsement of state action in collective defense, courts
> and the police. I think this is a superficial approach, since it fails to
> tie in to the determinants of efficiency and also it is subject to
> mission-creep. A more appropriate justification for the state would not
> only seek to maximize efficiency but would also create a strong Schelling
> point around the extent of state action that would minimize political
> transaction costs and be stable.
> Whatever inefficiencies exist in state action, the state is actually
> reasonably good at one thing - keeping other states from arising or
> encroaching on the society. A state lives and dies by its ability to fight
> off other states, and as a result most modern states are evolved to keep
> other states at bay - or else they get gobbled up by their neighbors. It is
> useful to recognize this particular capability of the state and to use it
> as the basis for further thinking.
> Let me thus propose the following principle: *The proper scope of state
> action is only to survive*.
> Under this principle the state may take any and all actions it needs to
> stop other states or non-state actors from taking its territory, usurping
> its sovereignty and asserting state or state-like control over the society.
> Equally so, the state may not take any other action, regardless of whether
> such action might provide benefits to some or even all members of the
> This is a very peculiar way of looking at the state - it's
> self-referential, it creates a purpose for the state that does not aim to
> better the society, it only promises to keep other states off the society's
> back. It does not depend on any particular moral vision, does not create
> any task-specific duties or limitations (like the enumerated powers, or
> provisions for social services enshrined in constitutions around the
> world), it only makes one promise - keep other states out, no more, no
> less. And yet, despite (or maybe because) of its concise nature, it could
> create a strong Schelling point that would remain valid in a wide array of
> possible internal and external conditions and that Schelling point could be
> understood and acted upon by both the society at large and by the men of
> the state.
> In times of extreme strife the surviving state would legitimately claim
> extreme powers - draft, confiscation, wartime communism, even (in truly
> horrendous and unusual situations) censorship. This would be the
> totalitarian state, subsuming all of the society to the task of its own
> survival. But then, as the enemies slink away from the gates, the same
> principle of state survival would mandate a gradual limitation and
> dismantling of its control over the society, up to and including leaving
> just a skeleton crew manning the nuclear deterrent force, with life and
> property firmly in the hands of individuals and their non-state
> This principle would be a beacon to provide a direction for all men, the
> same in times of war and in times of peace, which is a clear improvement
> over many current ideas that introduce a tension between individual freedom
> and collective security and fail to give us a common way of framing and
> understanding this very complex part of reality.
> I am not a scholar and I am not broadly familiar with the literature
> relevant to this field of political theory. In retrospect, the principle I
> enunciated is quite obvious, so I am sure many others had the same idea
> before me. If anyone here reading it knows of any previous proponents, tell
> me, so I can acknowledge them.
> Comments are welcome.
> extropy-chat mailing list
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
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