Monday, October 10, 2005

Liberty or Self-Indulgence?

Anarcho-capitalists would attain liberty by doing away with the state. They believe in
the Contractual Society; "[...] a society based purely on voluntary action, entirely un­hampered by violence or threats of violence."[12] Because this system relies on voluntary agreements (contracts) between individuals as the only legal framework, it is difficult to predict precisely what the particulars of this society would look like. Those particulars are disputed both among anarcho-capitalists and between them and their critics.
Among the important particulars not accounted for by anarcho-capitalists is the method of resolving disputes between those who agree to settle their differences without resorting to violence and those persons (foreign as well as domestic) who simply refuse to be bound by such agreements. Anarcho-capitalists, in their blindness to that bit of reality, insist on applying the non-aggression principle to inter-state relations, thus effectively granting immunity to lawless states simply because they have not yet attacked us.

Anarcho-capitalists, in effect, have created a fantasy world in which the American state is unnecessary because anarcho-capitalists do not like what it sometimes does. Anarcho-capitalists believe that, somehow or other, the absence of the state will culminate in the advent of nirvana.

The state -- or something worse -- is inevitable, however. The real question, therefore, is how to channel the power of the American state toward the defense of liberty. The Constitution of the United States, in its original meaning, offers the best practical answer to that question. Anarcho-capitalists will object that the original Constitution was imperfect (e.g., it condoned slavery) and that its desirable provisions (e.g., the Bill of Rights) have been implemented imperfectly. Such arguments assume that perfection would have overtaken us in a stateless world.

Anarcho-capitalism, in sum, is a belief in the impossible. It is the wrong standard by which to judge the possible. The right standard, simply stated, is this: When faced with politically feasible policy options, support the ones that advance liberty rather than those which detract from it.

Incremental but real steps toward liberty are infinitely superior to the self-indulgent but politically irrelevant fantasies of anarcho-capitalism.

Related posts:
Libertarian Nay-Saying on Foreign and Defense Policy (06/29/04)
Libertarian Nay-Saying on Foreign and Defense Policy, Revisited (07/23/04)
An Aside about Libertarianism and War (08/02/04)
More about Libertarian Hawks and Doves (09/24/04)
Defense, Anarcho-Capitalist Style (09/26/04)
The State of Nature (12/05/04)
Getting Neolibertarianism Wrong (04/19/05)
Fundamentalist Libertarians, Anarcho-Capitalists, and Self-Defense (04/22/05)
The Legitimacy of the Constitution (05/09/05)
Another Thought about Anarchy (05/10/05)
Anarcho-Capitalism vs. the State (05/26/05)
Rights and the State (06/13/05)
The Essential Case for Consequentialist Libertarianism (07/10/05)
But Wouldn't Warlords Take Over? (07/26/05)
Sorting Out the Libertarian Hawks and Doves (07/27/05)
A Paradox for Libertarians (08/04/05)
A Non-Paradox for Libertarians (08/15/05)