Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Anarchism is self-defeating

You'll rarely see a better critique of the nonsense of anarchism than this one, from Harry Binswanger. "Competition," says Harry, "is an economic, not a political, concept; it refers to the voluntary exchange of values, not to the exchange of gunfire."

Read more of this common sense here: Harry Binswanger: Anarchism vs Objectivism. [Hat tip Thomas Lee]

See also: Cue Card Libertarianism: Anarchy

UPDATE 1: A commenter at SOLO has conveniently summarised the main points covered in just 1500 words:
  1. why government must have a monopoly of force;
  2. the need for a philosophy of law to spell out details of objective justice;
  3. private force iss a violation of objective justice;
  4. the self-defence/emergency exception;
  5. private guards;
  6. what 'competing' would mean in practice;
  7. How anarchism is 'the rule of whim';
  8. how varying notions proposed for 'just retaliation' under anarchism would result in rights violations;
  9. the inescapability of disputes over rights in whatever anarchist system is initially set up;
  10. the stolen concept of a 'market' in force;
  11. the 'binding arbitration' fallacy;
  12. defense agency force is still force suppressing 'competition';
  13. the denial of the need for objectivity and proof in regard to force.
As the commenter says, "the only criticism of the essay would be ... that he lumps together all 'libertarians' as though they were anarchists."

UPDATE 2: A good debate on this still continuing at SOLO. Jump in.


  1. You need a picture of the anarchists from the movie Big Lebowski.
    Anarchist #1 "That's not fair!"

    That's about all you need to know about anarchists.

  2. "Objectivity requires one to prove that one is acting within one's rights; they do not want to be held accountable to anyone for anything—not even regarding their use of physical force. They damn governmental retaliation because it is objective; they demand to be "free" to use force on whim."

    Exactly - and one of my main problems with Libertarianism, and libertarians in general.

    (Incidentally Ian Grant's latest magazine Parenting with Confidence mentions Montessori in an article on choosing schools, and notes how it is growing in popularity here. He also has an article on alternatives to smacking - stating that discipline in critical to good parenting, but smacking is not good discipline.You should read it - your comment that one is not allowed to discipline one's children is disingenuous and quite wrong.)

  3. "they do not want to be held accountable to anyone for anything"

    Abject nonsense. The flip side to personal freedom is personal responsibility for one's actions.

    In other words, total accountability.

  4. As the commenter says, "the only criticism of the essay would be ... that he lumps together all 'libertarians' as though they were anarchists."

    He does this with good reason Peter - nearly all of them are - or else they are garden-variety conservatives like Tracinski. Actually the only libs I 'know' who are not anarchists or conservatives are you, Diana Hseih, and James Valliant.

    Until that changes I side with Binswanger, Rand, and Schwartz.

  5. Libertarians are anarchists with something to loose.


  6. "You need a picture of the anarchists from the movie Big Lebowski."

    They were nihilists.

    Nihilist:"We are Nihilists, Lebowski. We believe in nothing. Yeah, nothing."

    The Dude: "Oh, that must be exhausting."

  7. Greg: the joke isn't funny if it's about anarchists, 'cause anarchists can and often do believe in fairness. The joke was about nihilists who, by definition, believe in nothing. If you believe in nothing, you can't believe in fairness. That's why it was funny.

    There's actually pretty serious academic debate about the feasibility of libertarian anarchy. Bryan Caplan argues that private defence agencies would work out just fine. Tyler Cowen then argues that the network of such agencies (which would be necessary to solve inter-agency disputes) would either be powerful enough to punish rogue agencies (like the Mafia), in which case it could also punish anybody chiselling on cartel prices and consequently become the government; alternatively, it wouldnt' be strong enough to punish rogue agents and the whole thing would collapse into bad anarchy. Caplan then replies that there's an important cost difference in punishing cartel defectors, where every individual agency has an incentive to trade with the defector, and punishing a rogue agency, where nobody has an incentive to trade with the rogue. He consequently provides an existence proof of the feasibility of libertarian anarchy. Whether the existence of a feasible and desirable libertarian anarchy indicates that that's the most likely of the three relevant options (that it degenerate back into the state, degenerate into bad anarchy, or stay nice) is an open question. 3 days of the week, I agree with Caplan; the remaining 4, I agree with Cowen. Y'all ought to read the Caplan-Cowen debates though if you're interested in the topic.


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