A Response to 'More on Minarchism as Evil'

Column by Paul Bonneau. 

Exclusive to STR 

Responding to Per’s recent column, I will quote a couple of passages:
 
“...I have argued exclusively that a full-scale alliance (in the sense of an integrated, all-encompassing, and unified movement) is both counterproductive and impossible.”
 
I have to agree, as far as that goes. But there are a few problems with this formulation:
 
1) I don’t believe anyone here is arguing for such an alliance; I haven’t noticed it, anyway.
 
2) There is not only a choice between “enemies” and “allies.” The fact that Per is arguing against alliance suggests he believes these are the only two possibilities. Just because we should not ally with them, does not make them our enemies.
 
3) Talking about “alliance” and “enemies" is using terminology that is somewhat statist and collectivist. Normally the terms are used describing relationships between nations (that is, the ruling classes thereof). I might be on good terms with my neighbor, who is an individual, while not thinking of him as an enemy or an ally.
 
If you want to talk about something being counterproductive, maybe pigeonholing people is a good example.
 
Per writes further, “It is true, as some have argued, that all statists are not alike and that we should see statists as individuals. I could not agree more, but the problem is that this does not apply for minarchists: the fact that minarchists are proponents of government – no matter how small – they do not care about the individual as much as they care about the system.”
 
First, that link is non-functional. Second, either statists (including minarchists) are individuals, or they are not. I think they are, and should be treated as such--whether they return the favor or not. That is, we should use our vocabulary in describing reality, not the vocabulary of statists. Third, no proof is offered that statists “do not care about the individual as much as they care about the system”; it is merely asserted. My experience is that most people do care about individual others and that whatever system is in place is pretty peripheral to their existence, unless it has become completely oppressive such as in Stalin’s Soviet Union. I have no objection to the notion that minarchism is fundamentally different from anarchism and fundamentally the same as statism. My objection is with pigeonholing people into neat categories.
 
He writes, “The issue is further confused and complicated by the fact that many self-proclaimed anarchists (especially anarcho-capitalists, it seems) have not fully taken the step from minarchism to anarchism. Instead, they have replaced outright government with their own blueprint of exactly how a stateless society will function.”
 
I’m not certain, but I’m guessing Per is taking issue with my column, What Is to Be Done With the Statists?
 
First, it is a scenario, not a blueprint, one of many possible such. I’ll take any way to get there that is available; I’m not particular.
 
Second, I don’t see how envisioning one possible scenario, or even advocating it, necessarily transforms one from an anarchist into a minarchist.
 
It’s all well and good to talk about how rotten our current society is, and how wonderful a completely free society would be; but it’s rather academic if one can imagine or suggest no possible path between the two. Most individuals would simply discount any such arguments as pie-in-the-sky, and rightly so, if no path can be provided. Moreover, it is unarguable that this world will have both statists and anarchists in it for a very long time, perhaps as long as humans exist. Maybe envisioning some way to coexist with them would not be time wasted.
 
Even if it’s true that no “blueprint” to freedom can be made, when we finally get free, it is certain that SOME path will have been taken. There’s nothing wrong with imagining what that path could be, and lots of possible benefits to it (e.g., motivating ourselves, or convincing others that anarchism is workable).
 
Like so many arguments, this one seems to boil down to semantics. If one defines “enemy” as anyone who diverges to the slightest extent from what one thinks, then yeah, one will have lots of enemies. Great, if that is what one wants. However, it seems to be a good recipe for failure.
 
Personally, I would rather have fewer enemies, so freedom looks more doable, and so the ones who truly deserve that label are taken seriously rather than being camouflaged in a mass of mostly harmless people. I’d rather define as an enemy, someone who has the means and motive to subjugate me, and is actively seeking to do so or has done so in the past, not just anyone with a few inconsistent opinions in his head. Virtually everyone is inconsistent in some way or another. Expecting human beings to not be so--particularly after years of government indoctrination--is a bit much. Let’s deal with humans as they are, and not forget that they do have their good points on occasion.
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Paul Bonneau's picture
Columns on STR: 79
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Michael Kleen's picture

Very well argued, Paul. I just finished sending Rob a column on ideological vs. pragmatic anti-statism that I hope will add to this discussion as well