That Perennial Western Malady, the Revolt of the Individual Against the Species

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Thursday, January 27, 2005

A Bit on Anarchism

I posted this on a forum, and thought it could go here also. I haven't read much Murray Rothbard, so I would really appreciate it if people who have would comment and point out any obvious flaws I've made.

Anarchism certainly can work, and it would not be a system of chaos or havoc, either. Robert Nozick wrote about the voluntary, noncoercive "protection agencies" that would arise naturally in a state of nature. They would function similar to insurance agencies, charging individuals a fee to resolve their conflicts with other individuals. Resolution in cases where both concerned parties are members of the same agency would come very easily. In cases where there is a dispute between two individuals who are each a member of a different agency, the two agencies would choose a third, neutral agency to serve as an arbitrator because violence in any case is nonconducive to profit.

But anarchism in practice contradicts its own purpose. The moral argument for anarchy is that the natural rights of each individual cannot be infringed upon in any circumstance. Coercion (the infringement of natural rights) is intolerable, and by definition, a state is a coercive organization. But in the above scenario (a state of "market-anarchism"), a few individuals who for whatever reasons could not become members of a protection agency would be left without any means of securing their own rights and have no redress when they are violated. A system based upon the absolute sovereignty of the individual's natural rights cannot stand when some in that society have no redress to the violation of their rights. The argument for anarchism is contradictory to its end result and so fails.

I consider myself a "natural rights utilitarian" or "minarchist," a political philosophy shared by Thomas Jefferson and many of the Founding Fathers (although it was known simply as "liberalism" then). That is, anything that increases the net protection of individual natural rights is good. From this comes the state. Its purpose is the protection of individuals' rights, although in order to exist it must violate some. Taxation is a coercive power but is necessary for the existance of a police force, criminal investigators, and court system. The creation of these systems, although it requires that some individual rights be infringed, brings about a net increase in the protection of the natural rights of all individuals in a society. Any operation of the government whose direct goal is not the net increase of the protection of natural rights is morally illegitmate. "Wealth redistribution," a coercive practice, is only moral when its purpose is the protection of individual rights. Anarchy is immoral because some members of society are left without the means to protect any of their natural rights.

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