Responses:

Jago: Not surprising at all.

Mbwun: Thanks. I think.

Giygas, Nemomen, RCS: What terms exactly did you have trouble with? I'm not trying to be a sophist, I'm communicating in the best way I know.

Bactstabber!

It's a little melodramatic near the beginning, but I enjoyed Giygas666's essay The 'L' Word. At least, that is, until the part where he gratuitously knifes me in the back:

"There are some libertarians who truly desire no government; the "law of the jungle." I say that if you want to live by that law, then go move to the jungle; I won't miss you. We need government because there are people who just can't govern themselves, but minimal government is preferable to the hulking monster worshipped by the conservatives and the authoritarians and the fascists and the socialists. We have to create an ethical and legal standard by which to live by, but it has to be holistic and objective-not based on any one religion or any one philosophy or any one person's subjective beliefs, but rather what is good and beneficial for all of us-something we can all agree on (for example: killing is bad)."

There are two points I hinted at in my review of Giygas' essay. One is that we can't ever really get away from the law of the jungle. All political power comes from the barrel of a gun (or the string of a bow, or the edge of a sword, or the biceps of the burliest caveman, you get the point), and those who have the power to harm others are going to do so if they perceive it as profitable, by their own standards of value, to do so. As an anti-statist I do not desire to live under the law of the jungle, I merely recognize that I already do and cannot do otherwise, and I desire to fashion my circumstances so that they are not so inhumane as they are presently (I'll get to how in a later chapter; suffice to say I don't put any stock in political answers, like revolutions and elections, and that I have great faith in the market).

The other is that whether one 'desires no government' depends on one's definition of government. If by 'government' one means something like the modern State, based more or less upon the ancient Roman system, then yes, I, as an anarcho-capitalist, am opposed to government wholly. But, as "true", anti-property anarchists point out, private property itself, which anarcho-capitalists favor and support, is a form of governance, of 'government'. Now, ancaps and ansocs (shorthand for anarcho-capitalists and anarcho-socialists) sometimes engage in what I see as wholly meaningless semantic battles over who are the real anarchists. I myself am comfortable with, but not attached to, the anarchist label: I do see that a private property owner could be defined as the government of his own property, and I agree that over his own property he is, and should be, sovereign. So, I am not going to stridently defend my use of the word anarchist for myself because I realize that, in the purest terms, I am not an anarchist.

I want to elaborate on my first argument by challenging his notion that we 'need' the state to govern people who cannot 'govern themselves'. What does it mean to govern oneself—to govern is to control, is it not? In reality every man controls himself. A human cannot but control himself; it is ultimately his brain that dictates the actions of his body. We might—given a certain standard of measure—say that some humans are better at governing themselves; that some humans are better at running their lives. For instance if we measure self-governance in financial terms, with wealth perceived as more desirable and 'successful' than poverty, it is easily apparent. Bill Gates is better at making money than I'll ever be. That's fine as far as it goes but we run into praxeological problems here if we try to make anything more of it, because it cannot be objectively determined that increased monetary wealth is always the most relatively desirable thing to a given individual. For instance, many people value money far more or less than I do: Corporate executives can be reasonably assumed to value money and its uses more than I do; ascetics can be reasonably assumed to value money and its uses far less than I do.

It may be true that some people are better at realizing their own goals and fulfilling their own desires than others. Of course, this statement can be refuted by showing that, some can more efficiently realize their stated and apparent ends only because they do not also have conflicting valuations. It may be true that Joe really likes money, and that George really likes cars. But if it is also true that Joe really likes reading, daydreaming, and hot chicks, and George doesn't really like anything but cars, that Joe is possibly going to amass monetary wealth less efficiently than George collects and constructs hotrods. To the ignorant observer it will first appear that Joe is smarter than George because Joe makes more money than George (who tends to spend much of it on parts and stuff); to the casual praxeologist it may appear that George is more competent than Joe because he is better at fixing up cars than Joe is at making money; but, in reality, neither can accurately be said to be more or less competent than the other at realizing the sum of their basic desires. Perhaps Joe is as good at making money, expanding his knowledge of obscure European history, daydreaming about colonizing Mars with his own harem and starting a race of superintelligent moneygrubbing martial-arts experts with superpowers, and seducing desirable women, as George is at fixing up cars.

For the sake of argument, let's say that it's still true that some people are more competent than others, on the net, at achieving all of their own ends. Even so, to argue that we need the state to govern those who cannot govern themselves—or rather, those who appear to do so poorly by one's standards—is to argue for every depredation of a totalitarian nanny-state.

I'm well-aware that this is not what Giygas means; I understand that he means we need the state to punish those who will not respect the rights to life, liberty, and property of others. But my point is that rights-violaters are not inept at governing themselves at all; they are doing what they perceive to be in their best interest, and many of them do get away with their crimes. Crime does pay, and rather often. Criminals can be instrumentally rational, and it tends to be the most instrumentally irrational of them who get caught and imprisoned. The act of a criminal—that is to say, an aggressor, or a violator of another's right to life, liberty, or property—is actually an attempt at governing others. When a mugger shoves a gun in some poor bastard's stomach and demands his wallet, he is making a claim of ownership over the money of his victim, which is the fruit of his victim's labor and voluntary associations. He is in essence making a claim of ownership over the very life of his victim, by saying, "if you do not give me what you have produced, through work and through trade with others, but that I perceive to be mine, then I will kill you."

Conflicts are what happen when individuals try to govern other individuals. Let that sink in.

To argue for the state is to argue that we ought to construct, or defer to, an apparatus that can govern all of us; inescapably, a machine that can get away with openly doing at no risk what common criminals must do in secret at great risk. To argue that we ought to trade liberty for safety is to argue that we ought to feed ourselves to grizzlies rather than brave a life infested with wolves. It can be a very dangerous world. That's no excuse for running into the embrace of the strongest predator in the woods and expecting it to be nice to you, that's just plain irrational. In the end no-one can protect you but you, and that doesn't change no matter what kind of government you aim to install to make yourself feel safer. It seems a step backwards to create governments, then, because they're awful hard to fight against compared to street thugs.

A/N .

* Next chapter will deal with Tiefling's objections to my views on taxation, expressed in chapter 20 of her "Musings"

*Please do not swear while reviewing this essay. Any reviews containing words unsuitable for a 'G' rating will be removed.