Why Minarchists Are the Enemy

Column by Per Bylund.
Exclusive to STR
Libertarians want to roll back government to a much less oppressive size. In this goal, libertarian minarchists and anarchists often stand together and aim for the same goals, at least short term. In a limited sense, this may not be such a stupid idea. After all, pushing back the powers of government is a good thing, is it not?
But what about those libertarians rejecting anarchism because they think government, for one reason or the other, is inevitable? Even with these, we can often stand shoulder to shoulder against numerous policies, political power, and oppression. After all, we all want to go in the same direction: push back and restrict the powers of government.
Furthermore, we have people like Robert Nozick, who famously argued that it might be possible that a government emerges without violating any individual’s rights. Even though it sounds like pure fiction, if the argument is sound, we are bound to accept it. But if it is true, should we not join these minarchist libertarians, be convinced by their arguments as we see the truth unfold before our very eyes, and embrace that limited government that is created without anybody’s rights being either violated or restricted?
The answer is no. Whether rights are violated or not does not matter in our view of what must be.
There are plenty of reasons to reject government in all its forms, almost regardless of the definition used. But even though many anarchist libertarians would agree with this, they join forces with minarchist libertarians in the struggle to restrict and roll back the constant push for more political power. There seem to be many reasons to do this, if not only to increase our numbers in the fight for what is right and just.
But there is a problem with joining forces with minarchists; there is a fundamental difference that makes a minarchist-anarchist union utterly impossible. This difference is the principle of force and power – the principle of government. It is our very core belief as anarchists that force and power are wrong; that any involuntary subjection is always comparable to the end of the world. We have a true passion for justice, while minarchists do not.
Allow me to rephrase this statement: What separates libertarian anarchists from libertarian minarchists is what also makes the former different from statist socialists: they have a fundamental belief in government as a means and end that we do not and cannot share. Minarchist libertarians may not agree with every policy assumed by government and they may even reject almost all that which government is about. The problem is that they support the fundamental principle of government, and on this issue, we cannot find common ground.
I have many times been attacked (verbally, at least) by anarchist and minarchist libertarians alike for my principled dismissal of minarchists as allies in our stand against government. However, I am convinced that they are both very mistaken in their views, even though their rhetoric at times is attractive. Yes, it certainly sounds wonderful if we could join forces with those who share most of our beliefs to repeal almost all government and then turn to fight each other when it truly matters – when we already have established a very limited minarchist government. But this argument completely misses the point. Government is not a technical issue of size; it is a matter of principle.
From a principled standpoint, it does not matter if government controls a fraction or all-but-a-fraction of society. In this sense, minarchist libertarians are not different from big-government statists (of whatever variety). Wanting to repeal policies and roll back government is a matter of taste, but it is not a matter of principle. Some want it smaller, others want it bigger – and yet others want it to stay the same. Neither of them is willing to discuss whether government should be – only size matters. On the contrary, government’s existence is treated as a given fact, perhaps even a necessity.
In this sense, minarchist libertarians are nothing but gutless wimps; they are statist socialists with a fetish for smaller government. While big-government statists at least tend to have the decency to argue for their principled stand (that government is “good”), minarchists hide behind the myth of functioning government to protect them from hard-to-handle arguments. Most of us have faced opponents pushing for beyond-any-doubt answers we cannot supply: who will take care of the individual born without parents or relatives and who is mentally disabled and does not have any friends, cannot move or think or eat or breathe without help – and lacks all means to support him- or herself? Who will ensure this person’s well-being in a “free” society?
The question, whether posed in this extreme way or not, usually has only one purpose: to make the opponent appear to be a cold bastard who should not be taken seriously. The anarchist, of course, cannot supply a short and convincing answer, whereas the minarchist would be better off to (and usually does) reach for the trump card hidden in his sleeve: “government will take care of this matter.” Government is the final arbiter, the last resort, and the final guarantee of goodness. As well as a champion of freedom and health and all that is good and necessary and wished-for, when push comes to shove.
The truth, of course, is that government is hardly a solution, in the case of the poor individual described above or any other case. Who would notify the “authorities” if this poor person has no one and not even himself? Truthfully, would he or she be better off in a government-run society, where people are necessarily subject to their network of people with political influence, or in a decentralized society with a strong civil society where any individual’s actions make a difference? The answer is quite obvious, but to most audiences it would require the kind of explanation that can never fit in TV-friendly one-liners.
The point is not that freedom is difficult to defend – it surely is not. The point is that minarchists tend to evade the tough questions; they always end up relying on government as a guarantee when they are pushed back by a skilled rhetorician. They are not principally opposed to government, and in this sense they are statists as much as any other. From a point of view of principle, statists are all the same. As a principled anarchist, I cannot stand shoulder to shoulder with a minarchist against government. In fact, I refuse – because I know that when push comes to shove, the minarchist is like any other statist. He will not hesitate to pull the trigger on anyone with a principled opposition to government.

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Per Bylund's picture
Columns on STR: 63

Has a passion for justice.


Mark Davis's picture

Bravo Per! The list of pathetic excuses given by miniarchists to compromise their libertarian principles does make them "gutless wimps". I can hear the "But, but, buts" ringing in the air already.

JonCatalan's picture

I understand the article's overarching message, but I think it misses some of the benefits of a "union" between libertarian minarchists and libertarian anarchists. Practically speaking, the transition between a statist society and a stateless society will probably not occur within our lifetimes, and more likely than not it will be some sort of progressive transition (not necessarily peaceful, and not necessarily easily to track, but what I mean is that the transition will take time). In the meantime, I am ready to settle for smaller government, even if the eventual end that I strive for is a stateless society. Towards the intermediate end, smaller government, a union with libertarian minarchists is indispensable, because it provides a larger political front by which to express one's ideas.

It's also worthy to consider that libertarian minarchists are only one step from accepting anarchism. The anarchist movement today is largely educative, rather than an activist movement. Converting a libertarian anarchist is probably going to be easier than converting a socialist, or a convinced democrat or republican. It makes sense to include minarchists into your circle of friends, thus opening them to a much wider spectrum of ideology and literature.

This is why I like the current division of labor developed on the internet. You have online communities (let's say Cato) that are willing to open themselves up to all forms of libertarians, and even moderate Republicans. It opens these people up to a broader range of literature on libertarianism, and it readies them for more radical communities, including Strike the Root and the Mises Institute. The educational process of anarchism is not going to happen "all of a sudden", and the only way you can transition people into a different mindset is by being open to their ideas while feeding them yours. By shutting them out you are shutting out the opportunity to eventually have more people who agree completely with your political framework.

tzo's picture

Ron Paul and the minarchism crowd is a nice first step in extracting people from mainstream thought and politics. It should be the beginning of a logical questioning process, not an end or a means to an end (same thing).

If the logical process leads to the conclusion that less government is better, then zero government must be the best. This is the big hurdle to overcome, and only some will make it.

So yes, those who ultimately end up permanently camped in the Ron Paul zone are not "getting it," but as long as the Ron Paul zone exists, it will be a wake up call and a launching pad for those who ultimately pursue the minarchist meme to its logical conclusion.

Those who obstinately stay in RP World and believe it is the end-all are every bit the enemy of freedom as any democrat or republican. Leave them alone and help along those who are open to the next step.

Paul's picture

So, Per, what is your solution? Kill all the minarchists, as well as all the socialists, conservatives, liberals, and so forth?

You are making an implicit assumption here, that the only way to live is either within a completely minarchist state, or a completely anarchist un-state (or completely liberal state, etc.). This simply is not so:

Minarchists per se are not the enemy, and statists are not all the same. There are statists who will leave us be, and other statists who won't. The latter are our enemy, no matter what label they use for themselves, and the former are our allies. In fact, even anarchists, who insist the world must be completely free, are our enemies. People will come to accept freedom in their own good time, in their own way, not by having it imposed on them. They will do it when they see anarchism works. But that will never happen if anarchists turn everyone into enemies.

Stop whacking our natural allies. It is counterproductive to the cause of freedom. We should insist ONLY that people let us be, in our own free communities. Nothing more.

Mark Davis's picture

Paul, I had to go back and read through the article again to see how you got the impression that Per wanted to kill anybody and I don't see it. Just because someone is not your staunch ally that doesn't make them an enemy, much less someone that should be killed. Per said that he is "attacked" for taking a stand on a principle that they profess to adhere to, but obviously don't. I have felt the same frustration. That doesn't mean he wants to "impose" anarchy on anybody either.

Any libertarian who truly believes in the non-aggression principle and takes it to its logical conclusion, must conclude that the state is by its very nature incompatible with that principle. Having Goldilocks arguments about what size government is "just right" totally misses the point. It is also counter-productive and a waste of time because such a professed libertarian either doesn't truly believe in the non-aggression principle, doesn't understand logic or are too afraid to admit the truth. If people who say they believe in the non-aggression principle still cling to the myth that "we must have a state", then I will continue to try to point out the error of their logic. But if they attack me for it when their cognitive dissonance results in emotional overload, I won't hesitate to call them for their cowardice on it either. Hopefully that will help them get over the hump, but no killing should be necessary.

I agree totally that our goal should be to "insist that people let us be, in our own free communities. Nothing more." That doesn't mean we should roll over and let ministatists continue to push their logical inconsistencies and/or cowardly conclusions down our throats when confronted.

Glen Allport's picture

"Just because someone is not your staunch ally that doesn't make them an enemy" -- I agree, but I must say you've written some commentary about Assange that seems to take a different view.

Mark Davis's picture

I don't see Assange as an enemy, yet. I just think he is a person of interest worth questioning: both his methods and motives. He is at the very least over-rated as promoting individual liberty.

Samarami's picture


"...Minarchists per se are not the enemy, and statists are not all the same. There are statists who will leave us be, and other statists who won't. The latter are our enemy, no matter what label they use for themselves, and the former are our allies. In fact, even anarchists, who insist the world must be completely free, are our enemies. People will come to accept freedom in their own good time, in their own way, not by having it imposed on them..."


Sam's response:

Absolutely agreed. All too often in our zeal to "promote" anarchy and liberty there is the temptation to argue on the side of those who simply CANNOT IMAGINE total self government....who simply cannot envision the marketplace providing protection from the bad guys & gals at a fraction of the cost of Leviathan....who can't wrap their minds around the idea of marketable services that provide arbitration, conciliation...true justice. The primary reason for that incapability I think is the fact that none of us have never SEEN true freedom. Well, we think we've never seen it.


Like the elephant in the room, The State has always been there. And that is that.

I am a sovereign state. I currently live in occupied territory -- occupied by state (and statists and ministatists of the anarchist and libertarian bent). But my President is not in the District of Collectivism...er, Columbia. My President is responsible for the rotation of the earth on its axis. And no, there is no "religion" to which I can attempt to proseltyse you, so don't slam the door just yet.

I can't impose my sovereignty upon my family (all of whom I dearly love) and force them to be free. Or my neighbors. Two of my sons are avid, totally involved Ron Paul promoters. I love them both and their families and support them in every way I know as their father. I've met and visited with Dr & Mrs Paul and can testify they are delightful people.

But no, I shall not vote for (or against) Ron Paul for "president" or any political office. Last time I voted was 1964 for Barry Goldwater.

I agree with Per, and his article provides excellent insights. But I also agree with Paul. I can be free. I don't need your support for me to be free. I truly appreciate both of your well thought out essays and previous articles and all the input and ideas from other of my web friends.

You can be free also. And if I can be of inspiration to help you over freedom's hump, I'll sincerely try. I take every opportunity to broadcast the anti-state, anti-war message of freedom to all who wish to hear it (Mark knows me as "George").

But I cannot impose it upon you or anybody else. I am at peace with my neighbors, statists all. It would be nice if you and they would stay outa my face with your desire for rules and laws, and I'll avoid stealing your stuff or intruding upon your person or your property. I'm too old to seduce your wife or your daughter, so rest easy on that score.


Mark Davis's picture

"All too often in our zeal to "promote" anarchy and liberty there is the temptation to argue on the side of those who simply CANNOT IMAGINE total self government....who simply cannot envision the marketplace providing protection from the bad guys & gals at a fraction of the cost of Leviathan....who can't wrap their minds around the idea of marketable services that provide arbitration, conciliation...true justice. The primary reason for that incapability I think is the fact that none of us have never SEEN true freedom. Well, we think we've never seen it."

Well said Samarami George! As GHW Bush would say: "It's that vision thing."

Samarami's picture

I agree with you both. I do understand Paul's stance. But Per's article and his essay are dead on. I agree there is no kinda pregnancy with freedom. Either is you is, or is you ain't.

I am a sovereign state. My President is responsible for the rotation of the earth on its axis. And no, I have no religious ax to grind and have no movement into which I could proselytize.

I cannot impose my freedom or my sovereignty upon anybody -- least of all my neighbors and/or friends. But they do see my actions. And they know I am free -- as free as a sovereign individual can be living in an occupied area.

tzo's picture

If the current US minarchists continue to insist that the entire US land area is "their country" then that is a problem. There will never be any free societies until government organizations relinquish land, since they currently control all of it.

Not all minarchists are the same, but I would venture to guess that right now the vast majority aren't willing to shrink "their country's" land area to the limits of the collection of just land titles made up from willing participants.

Paul's picture

My perception is the reverse. I see quite a few minarchists predicting a breakup of the US. Pretty sure I've heard Ron Paul talk about it. And lots of liberals want this too.

I don't think you can throw every statist into this category of "enemy", not even close. And even those who do think that the US should not break up, are often easily shaken off that position, because they've never really considered it, and never realized the advantages that could accrue. Anarchists are not the only ones who hate Washington DC with a passion.

D. Saul Weiner's picture

Regarding your comments about the extreme scenario posed and how would a free society ENSURE that such and such a problem would be addressed in a satisfactory manner:

I don't think that anarchists should go on the defensive here. In such a challenge, there is an implicit premise that the State can somehow GUARANTEE that it will address all manner of problems indefinitely in the future. But we know that not to be the case. How will the State take care of the old/sick/disabled/children etc. when it has gone bankrupt? How will it take care of us all when it has destroyed the private economy, once and for all? How will it take care of us all when it has destroyed the currency? These are the types of questions we should be asking in response to a challenge like this.

Michael Kleen's picture

By taking the most extreme position possible and then rejecting any alliance or cooperation with anyone who doesn't agree with you, you are basically condemning your ideology and movement to utter failure. No one has ever succeeded in bringing their political thoughts into realization without some kind of compromise - There are just too many people who disagree with you. The only way a minority has ever held sway over a majority without compromise has been through brute force, and that's out of the picture, obviously. It's one thing to opine on the Internet about your beliefs, but if you make it impossible for you to make any progress toward their realization in the world, then all you're doing is engaging in mental masturbation.

Plant Immigration Rights Supporter's picture

I think alliances with minarchists are valuable for at least three reasons : 1. Many minarchists later become voluntaryists or anarcho-capitalists – ESPECIALLY if they have lots of contact with people who reject the state entirely THROUGH strategic alliances. I know this personally – I once was a minarchist. 2. If such alliances can – at minimum – protect basic freedoms like freedom of speech and freedom of assembly etc., we can continue to express our views without [as much] fear of prosecution. 3. The fact is, living in a semi-free society is far more pleasurable than living in a society like North Korea, Cuba or Saudi Arabia. If working with minarchists can help stop us from reaching a state like the poor folks in those countries have I am more than willing to work with them.

GeoffreyTransom's picture

I'm in two minds (at least) about Mr Bylund's rejection of minarchists as 'fellow travellers'. Ideological purity is a decent idea, but then you risk shouting and waving your arms in obscure bits of the wilderness.

There is the whole 'babies and bathwater' issue... plus, if some larger group gets the stone rolling in the right direction, the hope is that converts flock to the voluntaryist standard, the stone continues to roll (gathering, as the crones say, no moss) all the way to the Final Solution - the genuine Abolition of Slavery.

To expect to penetrate the public consciousness endogenously while having a 'correct line' view of one's associations, seems a tad irrational; it puts too great a faith in the power of reasoned argument (and the ability to gain access to the eyeballs of the as-yet-unconverted). Most people are amenable to being bored off their gourds over coffee or beer (people tolerate me banging on about stuff like this all the time), but will not deliberately click a link to be hectored.

Personally, I started my university life as a dedicated hater of politicians with zero held opinions about the State except that I hated the people who led it. Public Finance gave me an idea of sensible justifications for a minarchist state; public-goods (and asymmetrical publicness arguments), diminishing marginal utility of money and so forth.

Fortunately at the same time I was studying 'Comparative Economic Systems' and saw how, under almost all State configurations, the Party as rent-seeking 'candidate rationer' comes to pervert allocations - so my disdain for politicians was validated.

Later that same semester, I read some Rothbard at the behest of Ross Parish - and understood the inherent wrongness of state compulsion starkly for the first time (other readings for Parish's class included Spooner and Nock). I have been voluntaryist ever since - although I quite liked 'Sortition' as a possible intermediate step (which I tried to get called 'Randomocracy' after a paper from the 1980s... but Wikipedia-nazis called that a neologism). ANYTHING to get professional politicians out of the human species (including Assassination politics, if necessary - all violence against State organs is inherently defensive).

So anyhow... my 'journey' took place over about ten weeks; from not caring but hating the bullshitters (hat tip to Prof Frankfurter for making the word 'bullshit' academic) to hating the entire State edifice for sound theoretical reasons.

In a sense I was very lucky though; since then I have found precious few other 'trained economists' who have had similar exposure to material that I read and enjoyed as an undergrad. The only common ground we share tended to be the mathematical smart-assery of Varian (for micro), Blanchard&Fisher (for macro), Mishkin (for monetary), Caves Frankel & Jones (for Trade)... and the electronic wonderlands of of econometrics and CGE modelling (which are my primary fields of 'expertise', by the way).

Look at the news lately; the media cannot get its head around the following ideas -
* that Anonymous is leaderless (genuinely);
* that the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings did not happen due to some leadership council or other manifestation of an organ of control;
* that Wikileaks only has a 'spokesman' because it knew it HAD to in order to get media attention.

(I know something about all three organisations, and about how the media has tried to get anyone to say 'I am Anonymous!' or 'I am a Wikileaks insider!' or 'I am one of the folks on Twitter who exchanged DMs with the co-ordinating committee for the Egyptian revolution!'; anyone who put their hand up is a bit-parter who wants their Warholian 15-minutes).

If the media can't get their heads around genuinely leaderless orgs, how can one expect the Mass man to do so? That is why outreach - beginning with our minarchist chums - is required.

The media were DESPERATE to find ANYONE who could be labelled a 'leader'; all props to Wael Ghonim, but he was just a participant in the majestic wave of public protest in Egypt. Likewise Julian Assange - who should always be referred to as the RELUCTANT public face of Wikileaks.

And as for Anonymous?

Expect Us.

kenlefeb's picture

I think there are two different ideas being confused here... (not just by you, Plant, but your comment has a nice little list with numbers!)

1. Evangelism, even "friendship evangelism," is not an alliance. It is a valuable exercise, and it is always worth it when you are able to help others discover the consistency of anarchism.

2. An Alliance implies common goals, which Per quite nicely disputed. I have never met a minarchist who truly wanted to "protect basic freedoms". There is ALWAYS a "but." (Freedom of speech, "but" not to joke about bombs in the airport; freedom to assemble, "but" not if you want to assemble with someone of the same sex in the bedroom; etc., etc.) And they usually forget how much they wanted to "protect" those freedoms when the conversation turns to their political opposition (e.g., Democrats for Republican minarchists).

3. I totally agree that living under relatively tolerant rulers is more enjoyable than living under ruthless tyrants. But, any concessions you might make to game the system in your immediate favor isn't truly an alliance, either. It's a tactic, to gain some relief. To an outside observer, it might look like an alliance, but it's deliberate deceit... and, hopefully, it's disgusting enough to you that you don't forget that it's not an alliance.

tzo's picture

Logic is mental masturbation. Ethics is mental masturbation. Truth is mental masturbation. If you cannot compromise your principles, you are stroking yourself.

Here's a wild idea... I'm picturing it now... a website designed to educate people so they can understand the principles of logic and ethics and truth. If enough people begin to be exposed to these good ideas, then eventually they may become the majority. Maybe the website could be called, I don't know, Strike The Root or something catchy like that.

Oh, wait, we already have one like that, but it is populated with losers who get their kicks through fruitless mental masturbation that ultimately will lead nowhere.

Teach the people to work within the system to change the system. Yeah, gotta keep the system. Put on your loud plaid suit and oversized political button and get in there and compromise, champ!

There's this little country called Egypt, perhaps you've read of something going on over there? It seems that the people's opinion seemed to change rather quickly in regard to their government. Where was the compromise? Did they violently strike down the government? No, they basically ignored it until it left. Perhaps they should have taken your council and compromised their way to a better life over a span of a couple more decades?

Now I doubt they will prevent another government from moving in, because as you said, most people still cannot imagine a government-less society, but one of these days in the not-too-distant future, enough people will understand not just that government-less society is possible, they will choose it because they understand WHY it is logical and ethical and proper. This wacky internet thing, through which you and I and others opine, is spreading ideas faster than anything that has ever come before. The good ideas are going to prevail, and the bad ideas will be put aside.

You see, we actually are doing something here, even as you epically fail to realize it, and it is going to be much more effective than pulling levers and making deals with sociopaths that promise to limit the body count to 10,000,000 instead of 100,000,000. You see, I don't see that kind of compromise as progressive or as being the realization of anything positive. I find it disgusting and revolting. The State is a killing machine, and I hate the State.


So, Michael, please outline the plan you have for your lovely government to pay for education, social security, welfare, infrastructure, or anything else after your bankrupt system has no money that anyone is bound to respect. This was the point of the post previous to yours.

And if you don't have a detailed answer, you are just engaging in mental masturbation.

And if you do have an answer, it is based on violence. And you are OK with that, it seems.

Funk dat.

GeoffreyTransom's picture

It seems to me that Michael (Kleen) was making a reasonable point, but was using the inflammatory language that is now expected in all internet-based interactions. I hate the phrase 'mental masturbation' so much that I hope that I will never be found to have used it, but doubtless I have.

Also, you're off-base in your analysis of what happened in Egypt; the people didn't 'ignore' the government - they took concrete action and OPPOSED the government: refusing to observe a curfew is not 'ignoring' government. If hundreds of thousands of Yanks decided to give up their Ritalin/Adderal/OxyContin induced haze and occupy the National Mall in DC, they would not be 'ignoring' the government.

Furthermore, as with all operations against an oppressive and brutal regime with its cadres of thugs... it was not entirely non-violent.

A lot of media were perplexed as to why the police and Mukhabarat disappeared completely on the 29th of January.

Here is a partial explanation: as Anonymous shut down the Egyptian government's web-presences on the 25th and 26th, it also managed to back-door the Ministry of the Interior. It obtained lists of undercover police and Mukhabarat - their names, addresses and telephone numbers. (By the time it was realised that the regime had severely curtalied internet access, the job was already done - so Anonymous stopped DDoS on .eg government sites).

From there a small campaign happened on the night of the 27th, where extreme violence was done to several Mukhabarat people and undercover police. Targets were selected on teh basis that they were known
(1) unmarried and childless; and
(2) violent assholes committed to the regime.

Thereafter, in the wee small hours, a few dozen folks made a few hundred of phone calls to the families of about 15% of the people on the rest of the list, telling them what had happened to their comrades and that their identities were compromised. From there, the 'bush telegraph' did the rest. The men who worked for the regime did a cost-benefit analysis regarding their work, and factored in two things: what if the regime fails, given that I am now known to be a collaborator?

And lo, 'truancy' (lol...) became a problem for the police and security forces.

So all the media falderol about how the Egyptian uprising was entirely non-violent are like the people who watch a swan move - apparently effortlessly - across a lake, oblivious to any action under the water.

There is not a single government on earth whose information security is what I would consider satisfactory; this is why the US is so keen to try to convince other despots that it backs, that it can put out any further spot-fires... but about a month ago the US govt had to repatriate 400 people from CIA 'front' companies as a result of a leak that they were told about.

The stark reality is that the bad guys (the State) know that this is a game for keeps; they risk being demoted to the same level as senior Church figures were after the success of the Liberty of Conscience movement.

Now we might think that such a change only means fewer palaces and less power... but people like Cheney, Blair, Obama and their ilk are prepared to set the whole world ablaze in order to prevent their share of the pie from falling. They would rather that the pie shrank and their share grew, than the reverse.

It is all about how they're wired; they gain utility from the gap between themselves and the average, over a much larger range than normal humans (everyone wants to be better off than the average, but there is a diminishing marginal utility for us... but NOT for 'homo cheneyensis').

kenlefeb's picture

Where can I read more about this midnight visitation to the Mukhabarat?

GeoffreyTransom's picture

Hi there kenlefeb,

Sorry to have taken an age to respond.

The action that resulted in the large-scale truancy of Egyptian police on January 28/29th has been mentioned around the interchoobs in various places, but you will find it nowhere in the mainswamp media (there is no main 'stream' anymore; it is all swamp). It is mot something that TPTB like to advertise, lest it give folks ideas.

I could furnish a list of the names of the few dozen Muhkabarat and undercover police who were the targets of the action - such a list would add nothing except perhaps a demonstration of my ability to generate plausible-sounding lists of working class Egyptians. The deniability of everything is a critical asset: a windbag bloviates on the interchoobs, and in doing so passes an encryption key to someone who needs it.

The mechanism I outlined in the comment to which you replied, is chapter and verse of what went down: I contributed to conveying the practical aspects of implementing the theory (which owes a great deal to Jim Bell's "Assassination Politics" from 1996) to the people on the ground who wanted to know how to put sand in the gears of the State's apparatus.

It is a 'known known' (in Rumsfeld-speak) that government security agencies infiltrate all anti-government movements and either foment discord or attempt to entrap participants: at the very least they help ensure that key participants are rounded up before major operations can be organised. We see this with the fact that almost every major 'sleeper cell' bust undertaken to provide TV news with something to entertain the Mass Idiot, is actually a cell run by the FBI or some other such agency.

Anyhow... infiltration by government agents happens everywhere, and folks like me help participants to identify possible infiltrators and deal with them as appropriate (you might be aware of several dozen UK undercover cops in the environmental movement who were outed recently - not my work, but a lot like it).

As I have said elsewhere in the past, the OstEuropaische 'colour revolutions' that everyone was babbling about four years ago, required the same type of (ahem) interaction with the State machinery of oppression: back then it was harder to get the lists - the 'back-end' has improved substantially as the mechanisms have evolved.

This project (and it is a project) has its roots way back in the late 1980s when a group of people took SEVERE umbrage at the French government's terror attack on the Rainbow Warrior. If you want to analyse 'final causes', read 'Underground' by Suelette Dreyfus (assisted by a younger Julian Assange).



PS imagine if someone had lists of the clandestine assets - covert operatives,. front companies, informants... foreign and domestic - of every major government from the US to Israel, Germany, France, etc. Such a someone (or group of someones) would have the ability to engage in a 'Plame War' (HA!) and rip the eyes out of any government that decided to try and 'crack down' on it.

Let's just say that Anonymous (and darker Anon-related groups like Gnosis, Metanoia and Sofia) have more assembled talent than even the HBGary hack shows.

Michael Kleen's picture

I have always been under the impression that STR is open to everyone who is for liberty, even if that means a restrained state or small, constitutional government. Quotes by "minarchists" like the Thomas Jefferson are rotated across the top of the page every week. You quote Rothbard, but Rothbard spent his life working with parties inside "the system". He was a member of the Libertarian Party and he initially supported Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign in 1992. Are you going to throw Rothbard under the bus too?

tzo's picture

From STR submissions guidelines, number 2.

"STR is a market anarchist site, so please do not submit any columns that promote the political process, a political party, voting, "good government," the Constitution, lobbying "your" Congressman, or technical, legal arguments against the income tax (only moral arguments), or that mention or imply physical threats to government officials."

So that should clear that up.

Your opinion that it is impossible to make progress by making and spreading principled arguments against government is duly noted. The stupid public cannot be educated. The political process must drive them to virtue through force. I happen to disagree, and I don't mind agreeing to disagree, as it is quite possible you are correct. We'll just have to wait and see.

But here you are, contributing to a market anarchist website (apparently unbeknownst to you) and you demean the very spirit of most of the writing that is contained therein. All the archives of columns that reject the Statist assumptions and promote voluntary association are just a collection of worthless musings that have no connection to reality. Mental masturbation.

Because these columns do not promote the political process, the only way to get stuff done in this world.

I don't have a problem with principled human beings attempting to use the political process as one means of increasing liberty. Personally, this does not interest me, nor do I think it is an effective use of time. Murray and Lysander both thought that voting could be used defensively. They figured that if you're entangled in an inescapable web of coercion, you may as well take what the State gives you and use it to your advantage if possible.

But you see, there is a HUGE difference between principled human beings who thoroughly understand the subject of freedom, who will try anything to increase freedom, including trying to influence the hated, violent, and omnipresent institution of government to that end, and a person who believes the ONLY way to move towards freedom is through Machiavellian wheeling and dealing and compromising via government.

The former may use politics to increase freedom while the government exists, with the goal being to end the government. The latter relies on politics to increase freedom with the goal of keeping the government in place. The basic incompatibility of government and freedom is ignored, and he refuses to see the logical impossibility of the stated mission.

Rothbard's and Spooner's great contributions live on not through what they did in politics to change the system, but in their contributions of thought that continue to undermine the bad meme that is government. Neither man accomplished squat through the political process. And yet it seems your opinion would be that only their political involvement was practical and useful, while all the rest of the volumes they wrote on human freedom was just so much mental masturbation, contributing nothing to furthering the cause.

Education is the key. It is the only answer. It is happening all around you. So many people have never been so directly connected with so much information available to them before. There is no precedent. The government meme will not just disappear tomorrow, but that does not mean that it is not steadily losing its credibility.

Lose it, don't use it.

jd-in-georgia's picture

As Albert Einstein so eloquently stated, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting a different result. The great "experiment" started by our founding fathers is coming to an end. Why? Because in practice and in principle it has been tried over and over, long before the inception of the United States, and has always ended in failure.

Governments, fiat currencies, and all of the things that make the world go around are doing just that, not unlike the vortex in a toilet sending human waste into oblivion. If only one idea here (like in the movie "Star Trek: First Contact" when Captain Piccard is explaining to Lily, a person from his past, that money, along with hunger and many other nasty things, no longer exist in the future) or one idea there (like the Christians that Gandhi said do not exist would actually start existing) could perhaps turn on lights in all people, regardless of personal beliefs and backgrounds, to facilitate a very real change. That is the day I hope for. It is the day where individuals learn that using competition as a tool to hone cooperation (instead of just competition alone) actually gets all people moving forward, yet each person gets to maintain his or her very own identity.

It will take time. It will happen. It takes people like those who immerse themselves into the articles on Strike the Root. It takes people who actually read all sides of an argument. It takes people willing to be pro-active and not re-active. As a species, we have not really changed much over the past few thousand years, if you only look at the DNA. But when we look at some of the technologies that have been around for a relatively short period of time, I hypothesize that we are the only creatures on the planet that can evolve by choice. The time to evolve out of petty politics is at hand. Just my opinion.

Glen Allport's picture

jd-in-georgia, that is a GREAT comment. My comment below about using "coercion" as a modifier when speaking of the State, or government, or socialism, or the elite (i.e., the ones who use corporatism and other State coercion to achieve their goals) is aimed at exactly what I believe you're talking about when you describe "turning a light on" in people's minds. Hammer it home, everywhere, all the time: COERCION is what we object to; COERCION is literally a crime in human terms (and typically also in the legal code); COERCION is what turns civil society into a fascist nightmare or other tyranny. Focusing on anything else just gets people to waste time on side issues, while making it harder for them to see the main point.

Likewise (speaking here not to you, but generally): for god's sake, let's stop using "anarchy" as a descriptor for the movement. Yes, yes, it's accurate and it's THEIR problem that people don't understand the word. Except that isn't really the case, is it: if 98% of the public believes that anarchy = "violence and chaos", then all we are doing is marginalizing ourselves further every time we use the word. We are choosing to fail, and I mean that literally.

I want to abolish the use of initiated (i.e., non-defensive) coercion OF ALL TYPES and BY ALL PERSONS AND GROUPS. If that is what you want also, please consider using "abolitionist" and "abolitionism" as (accurate and with positive connotation) descriptors for yourself and for the movement to abolish coercion.

Glen Allport's picture

Nice column, Per, and you're making an important point about the non-aggression principle -- although you don't mention it by name. I believe that and other choices in wording impede your message.

What is "government"? Well, there is individual self-government -- freedom, in other words. That's the kind of government we want. Auberon Herbert, the classical liberal who wrote the excellent "The Right and Wrong of Compulsion by the State", advocated a government that did not tax, nor enforce its will on people in any way. Of course, that's not a "government" of any kind that people would recognize, but it does -- in classical liberal fashion -- acknowledge that there are things which need doing. We NEED air traffic control, roads, and garbage collection -- we just don't need to use a coercive mechanism to fund or operate them.

I use the word "coercive" as a modifier for that very reason. "Coercive government" is very different from individual self-government. "Coercive socialism" is nothing at all like the voluntary socialism you might find at a monastery or commune. And the "coercive elite" are definitely NOT in the same, RESPECTABLE category as a rich/powerful person who earned or inherited his/her money without coercion and who does not use State coercion to line his/her pockets or to otherwise coerce unearned priviledge or wealth from the people.

It is COERCION that is the problem, and until people get clear on this, confusion will reign. I would love to see abolitionists (see my "Call me an Abolitionist, Please" for why I don't use the word "anarchist" http://strike-the-root.com/62/allport/allport4.html ) start to regularly, consistently use the word "coercion" as a modifier whenever talking about the State or those who avail themselves of State coercion to achieve their goals. I don't think anything else gets the message across so clearly.

BrianDrake's picture

Isn't it more accurate to use the word "aggression"?

It is the non-"aggression" principle, for starters. Out of deference to your semantic tastes, I'd be willing to refer to the NCP in a conversation with you, but I think most abolitionists/anarchists/libertarians/voluntaryists (whew...it's getting to be a chore to write those synonyms out, and I'm not being comprehensive) are more familiar with the NAP.

I have never been able to think of (or hear put forth) a justified form of aggression. I have been able to conceive of justified "coercion". For example, if you are on my property, and I ask you to leave, if you refuse, at some point I may be justified in "coercing" you off my property. That is, I may "persuade (an unwilling person) to do something by using force or threats" (my dictionary's def of "coercion") and be completely justified since you are invading my property, the continued act being a form of aggression against me. Reasoned escalation to the use or threat of violence is coercive, but since it is defensive, it is not unjust.

There's not usually such a strong need for nitpicking semantics. But I think in this issue, the easy answer is the consistent use of the word "aggression", which one can always oppose without caveat.

Glen Allport's picture

That's a thoughtful response, but I don't feel that using both terms -- coercion and/or aggression -- is a problem, and I think "coercion" works better as a modifier in many situations. That's partly because being aggressive is not usually seen as a crime; a man might be aggressive in pursuing a woman, for instance -- which is VERY different from being coercive in that situation. "Aggressive" might be annoying, while "coercive" is literally criminal. Likewise, being aggressive in business is often seen as a good thing, but once again: being coercive is never anything but criminal.

BrianDrake's picture

That's an interesting point you bring up Glen. Thank you for the response.

I'm horrible at grammar, but it does appear to me that the modifier "aggressive" doesn't mean the same as the noun "aggression". The man may indeed be "aggressive" in pursuing a woman. But is it correct to say he committed aggression? That he used aggression?

I agree, as a modifier "coercive" can clearly denote wrong. "Coercive business practices" indeed implies wrongdoing, whereas "aggressive business practices" may simply imply ambition and drive.

And yet the use or threat of force to compel someone, coercion, is not always wrong (because it can be used defensively). Whereas the INITIATION of force, aggression, is always wrong. Initiation is, to me, the most important distinction.

It seems that "coercive" as a modifier can be neutral but mostly implies criminality (a counter-example would be "coercive defense"). "Coercion" as a noun is also context dependent. "Aggressive" as a modifier is neutral, but "aggression" as a noun describes something that is always wrong.

In a stateless society, it may be commonplace for private protection agencies to be coercive in their defense of property rights (they will use force, instead of ostracization), since they use coercion instead of persuasion. While the same agencies may be aggressive in competing for customers, if they commit acts of aggression, they are criminal.

Language, like value, appears to me to be subjective. The noises and squiggles we use to communicate are only effective when the people communicating agree upon their meaning. So if you're comfortable with opposing "coercion" (as you see it to mean), no harm.

However, because there are just examples of "coercion", but never just examples of "aggression", I'm more comfortable with being against all aggression, but I don't condemn coercion on the whole.

Glen Allport's picture

Wow -- BrianDrake, that's a terrific response and analysis. I do often use the phrase "initiated coercion" or "non-defensive coercion" to remind that of course, coercion when necessary in defense is legitimate and indeed is coded into our DNA; I can't think of an animal species that won't fight back if it has to -- other than a few who have lost this instinct while evolving for long periods on islands without predators, for example. When predators are introduced, the native species go extinct pretty darn quick.

Your point that "aggression" and "aggresive" often have different meanings is a good one. It seems there isn't a word in English that is perfect in all forms and all sentence structures that exactly describes what we're trying to get across. I do think "coercion, other than in defense" is less likely to cause confusion, because "coercive" and "coercion" are both seen to be crimes -- and again, they ARE crimes both in human terms and in the legal code (here in Oregon, I sat on a jury once at a trial where "coercion" was among the listed offenses of the accused).

How would you suggest getting the message across when speaking of government, or the State, or the elite? "Aggressive" isn't necessarily bad, so "aggressive elite" won't have the same punch to some people as "coercive elite." It probably sounds like I'm parsing this thing to death, but as you point out, "Language, like value, appears . . . to be subjective." I've seen this in surprising ways myself. While writing The Paradise Paradigm, someone reading a draft happened to let me know she saw the word "love" in most situations as "sex." I was writing about the need for compassion in a society and she thought I was advocating sex, as in "free love." I was completely surprised by this, and along with other odd (to me) interpretations of things I've written, it has made me cautious when trying to convey even simple concepts, especially when widespread propaganda and/or neurosis might push people to overlook what seems an obvious meaning in favor of something they've been taught or that supports a psychological defense.

So I think your point is a good one, and I will consider it in my writing. I do use the phrase "non-aggression principle" often and work to connect that to the fact that coercion is a crime, but I'm not sold on the idea that the word "aggressive" will in all cases be as definitive for people as the word "coercive." The term "aggression" on the other hand is -- I think, anyway -- pretty definite, meaning very few people would see it as anything other than "coercive" and thus criminal.

Suverans2's picture

G'day Glen Allport,

An "aggressor" is always the one who makes the first attack. And all forms of the word aggress makes this readily apparent.

On the other hand, since coerce, coercion and coercive generally have to do with restraint, "particularly by moral force," they tend toward being defensive words.

rickdoogie's picture

Thanks Per.
Great job stirring up lots of excellent commentary on the subject.
It's a raw nerve, obviously.
I agree with your sentiments. Minarchists can be the most rabid defenders of the state, when they are long-time defenders of that wheel-spinning paradigm.
I agree with those who say that we shouldn't be openly hostile to those who are "minarchists in motion", taking logical steps in our direction.
The trick is finding out who is a die-hard statist minarchist, and who is still moving. Not an easy thing to judge on the fly. But we must continue to insist on our right to opt out of their mini-state. That usually makes them show their true colors.
Minarchists who I am acquainted with like to say "I believe in non-coercion", but will continue to say "everyone has to participate to make the minimal state work". They haven't realized the basic principle that "the state is force". Even very intelligent (and very gentle) minarchists seem to have this blind spot in their psyche. I agree with Glenn and others who say we need to keep pointing out the coercion that a minarchist has to advocate in order to hold his logical position. Stir up that cognitive dissonance. Bring to boil. Stir continuously.

BrianDrake's picture

good comment rickdoogie. I should have read it before writing mine as I now am slightly redundant.

Suverans2's picture

G'day everyone,

Can we all get along? ~ Rodney King

As a self-governing Individual Secessionist I say if any of you want a government, large or small, go ahead and have one, enjoy yourself, and as long as you don't try to force that government on me or mine, then we'll "get along" just fine.

BrianDrake's picture

But isn't it true that if you can convince your neighbors to "leave you alone", that is, that government shouldn't be imposed on people, then you've convinced them to be anarchists?

"Individual secessionists" (seems to be similar to panarchists) appear to propose this "just leave me alone" position as though it was some sort of easier middle ground. But if enough people to matter actually agreed that you have the right to secede yourself (without forfeiting your property - love it or leave it), they are at that point anarchists and we've won. If government only has jurisdiction over those who actually consent, then it is no longer a state, it is a business.

Sexual bondage/S&M clubs are not states. If the customers desire to be treated as torture victims, that doesn't suddenly negate the fact that they are customers (choose that treatment voluntarily). Likewise, if you desire to be treated as a "citizen" by a company providing that service, the fact that the company does not force anyone to be its customer (or forcefully prohibit competition) means it must still compete and at that point, it is anarchy.

Liberty and self-reliance are not the same thing, and those who advocate liberty (self-ownership) do not have a single, unified preference on the optimum amount of self-reliance. One can be a hermit, fully self-reliant. Another can join a commune, where all worries of responsibility are delegated to others. As long as these preferences are freely chosen, it is liberty, it is anarchy.

Since so many people have been conditioned by the state to fear the responsibility that freedom entails, I think a very profitable venture, at least at first, in a stateless society would be to run a "government business". You sign up with us, and we'll treat you exactly as you were by the state. We'll determine how much of your income to take. We'll regulate what you can eat, watch, do. We'll provide a one-stop place for defense services, arbitration, occasional beatings from our security personnel, etc...

It is not the behavior of the state, per se, that makes it criminal. It is the involuntary nature of it. So again, convincing a statist to "allow" individual (not smaller state) secession, is to really convince him to be a voluntaryist.

Paul's picture

Well, no. I mean, that is wrong on it's face.

Example: I've heard any number of conventional conservatives, when confronted with the mess of the War on Some Drugs, say something like this: "I would never use those drugs, but if someone wants to ruin his life, that's his lookout." The person saying this is clearly not an anarchist, yet he is willing to leave someone alone on this issue. It is merely a logical extension to leave people alone on all issues. He may not want to live in a town where drugs are legal, but he does not think every town should be that way.

There is a whole principle here, called "subsidiarity". Subsidiarity is not "freedom everywhere". It is "statism (or lack thereof) tailored to the local crowd". In any conceivable future, for a very long time, there are going to be a lot more statists than anarchists. I don't care, as long as anarchists can be free, and as long as we have means to deter encroachments (which currently exist already).

BrianDrake's picture

"I don't care, as long as anarchists can be free"

How is a state a "state" if there exists inside the borders of its jurisdiction people who are not subject to its jurisdiction (even in pretense - obviously one can argue that state operatives are not fully under its jurisdiction)? If the "statists" agree to leave us alone, that implies they give us exemption from the jurisdiction of their state without forcing us to leave. If they really mean this (not the, you have to move in order to be free crowd), they are extending this courtesy to anyone who wants it (unless you mean they only allow Paul and Brian to be left alone, but not everyone who wants it). This means that anyone has the opportunity to ask to be "left alone". Opt out, in other words. A fundamental shift has then happened. The "state" has become voluntary, and is no longer a state. For every person who remains in the "state", that position has now become a chosen one since the alternative option is now "allowed". Now competition exists. The "state" must please its "citizens" or they will increasingly "opt out" and find other arrangements for their protection. Competition is now in play. If I can opt out of the state (be left alone), then the state can no longer dictate how I provide/contract for the services it has monopolized. We are now in full-fledged market anarchism.

So any situation where "anarchists can be free" (without emigrating - forfeiting their property) is a situation where EVERYONE can be free. That is anarchism.

Even if it's some sort of silly philosophical test to be "left alone" (Executive Order 12345: "Only those identifying as anarchists shall be exempt from state control"), then anyone who wants to be left alone can simply claim to be "an anarchist" and achieve the same result.

Paul's picture

How can you exist in a society without being punched in the nose every day? There are obviously lots of people who would punch you in the nose, given any excuse.

Even if we lived in perfect anarchy, we would still face a problem in dealing with free-lance criminals.

The answer is, you avoid and/or threaten retaliation for messing with you. And if you have any sense, you don't engage in "conspicuous consumption", which makes you look like a juicy target.

There are many millions of people who don't pay taxes, even in the belly of the beast (Empire). There are huge numbers of "non-compliant" homeschoolers. There are very many who carry a gun without asking permission.

My point is that it is simply unrealistic to imagine we will get to perfect anarchy by flipping a switch. There will be decades, even centuries of transition. Already the state thugs find it unprofitable or dangerous to enter some areas or mess with some people. Those areas will expand and the number of state thugs will contract, particularly when the dollar crashes and there is no means to pay the enforcers.

Suverans2's picture

Ooops! This was not a comment, it was a reply to one of BrianDrakes' comments. And it ended up in this position anyway.

Suverans2's picture

G'day BrianDrake,

Let me begin by pointing out that the majority of people do not perceive anarchy the way that some of you do. Here is what most individuals believe an anarch to be. So I personally avoid that label like the plague. I am not "one who excites revolt, or promotes disorder". I do not believe "there is no law"; my law is the law of nature, which according to John Bouvier's Institutes of American Law is "is superior in obligation to any other". I am not one of those who "do what they please with impunity", an utterly ridiculous notion, IMO; and I am not in favor of "political confusion", I am simply self-governing and therefore have no need to be governed.

As to "panarchy", I've not yet read Panarchy by Paul Émile de Puydt, so I cannot comment on their similarity. However, I do agree with what David M. Hart is reputed to have said about panarchy, "Governments would become political churches, only having jurisdiction over their congregations who had elected to become members."

    You wrote: But isn't it true that if you can convince your neighbors to "leave you alone", that is, that government shouldn't be imposed on people, then you've convinced them to be anarchists?

Not at all, I have merely convinced my neighbors [including the local police] that I am self-governing, and they can, and do, therefore, "leave me alone". As one local rancher put it to the local gendarme, (when we first arrived in this area), "He's honest, he works hard and he doesn't cause trouble. What more do you want from a man?"

    ...if enough people to matter actually agreed that you have the right to secede yourself (without forfeiting your property - love it or leave it), they are at that point anarchists and we've won.

Your statement there would be correct except for your addition of, "they are at that point anarchists". No, BrianDrake, they are voluntary members of a man-made government. If I leave a statist alone does that mean that I have consented to become a statist? Not hardly!!

    If government only has jurisdiction over those who actually consent, then it is no longer a state, it is a business.

According to Frédéric Bastiat's definition of the word "government", “It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.” If you wish to call that "a business", [which is generally thought of as something you enter into for a profit], you are certainly free to do so.

    Liberty and self-reliance are not the same thing, and those who advocate liberty (self-ownership) do not have a single, unified preference on the optimum amount of self-reliance. One can be a hermit, fully self-reliant. Another can join a commune, where all worries of responsibility are delegated to others. As long as these preferences are freely chosen, it is liberty, it is anarchy.

Well now, point one, is correct "liberty and self-reliance are not the same thing", in fact, at this point, I can see no relationship whatsoever.

Point two, "and those who advocate liberty (self-ownership) do not have a single, unified preference on the optimum amount of self-reliance". Since we apparently agree that "liberty and self-reliance are not the same thing", what does it matter?

Point number three, "One can be a hermit, fully self-reliant." Doubtful, because man is a social animal, but regardless of that, what does being "fully self-reliant" have to do with being self-governing?

Point four, "Another can join a commune, where all worries of responsibility are delegated to others." I think that would have made much more sense had you perhaps said, "all worries of responsibility are shared by the voluntary members," or something of the sort, but again, I must ask, what does this have to do with being self-governing?

And, point number five, "As long as these preferences are freely chosen, it is liberty, it is anarchy." You are apparently stating that "liberty" and "anarchy" are synonymous. If so, I would point out that natural liberty is not anarchy, i.e. "Want of government; a state of society, when there is no law or supreme power, or when the laws are not efficient, and individuals do what they please with impunity; political confusion".

"Natural liberty is the right which nature gives to all mankind of disposing of their persons and property after the manner they judge most consistent with their happiness, on condition of their acting within the limits of the law of nature, and so as not to interfere with an equal exercise of the same rights by other men." Buriamaqui, c. 3, § 15; 1 Bl. Comm. 125 – A Dictionary of the Law (Black’s 1st c. 1891), pg. 716 [Emphasis added]

    It is not the behavior of the state, per se, that makes it criminal.

It is, in fact, "the behavior of the state, per se, that makes it criminal," (as though "the state" was a sentient being). Things are not criminal, behaviors are criminal. And, "To join or support one that,' (in my opinion), 'would itself do injustice, would be criminal", which is why I have opted out.

    It is the involuntary nature of it.

This is sure to piss some people off, but they should be honest with themselves. It is a convenient excuse for those individuals who are simply unwilling to secede, because they perceive that life without the state would be too difficult and dangerous. I fully understand this and do not think ill of them for making this choice, just as I hope they do not think ill of me for choosing to withdraw my consent to be a member of their political organization, which leads us to your last point.

    ...convincing a statist to "allow" individual (not smaller state) secession, is to really convince him to be a voluntaryist.

Agreed, which is what I, (and Paul, apparently), are trying to do here.

Suverans2's picture

G'day BrianDrake,

    "...convincing a statist to "allow" individual (not smaller state) secession, is to really convince him to be a voluntaryist."

I feel the need to expand on that part of your comment, just a bit.

Not exactly sure why you put the word "allow" within quotation marks, but, for the purpose of clarity, statists do not have my consent to "disallow" me from seceding from their corporation. Oh, sure, they can say that they don't "allow" individual secession, they can even back up that criminal abridgment of my natural right to liberty with force, but that does not make my withdrawal from membership in their corporation any the less real.

    A pirates et latronibus capti libera permanent. Dig.49. 15. 19. 2. - Those captured by pirates and robbers remain free.

That is true, because I still have a "just claim" to my life, liberty and possessions.

    A pirates et latronibus capta dominium non mutant. Things taken or captured by pirates and robbers do not change ownership. Bynk. Bk. 1, c. 17; 1 Kent, Comm. 108, 184. No right to the spoil vests in the piratical captors; no right is derivable from them to any recaptors in prejudice of the original owners. 2 Wood. Lect. 428.

And, if and when I have the physical power to do so, I may lawfully (rightfully) reclaim my "things", one of which is my liberty.

BrianDrake's picture

Great article Per.

I think there's an important caveat:

Minarchists-for-the-moment, genuinely on the path to truth, are indeed fellow travelers that need an extended hand from us to help them make those few (but necessary, and often the hardest) remaining steps towards a coherent philosophy.

Minarchist philosophers are the WORST enemy, IMO, and deserve to be outed as the snakes they are.

As noted above by others, it is the minarchist philosophers that seem to be the most rabid apologists for the state when it really boils down to it. I have seen the most egregious examples of sliminess by the advocates of "limited government" as they praise "liberty" out of one side of their mouth, while screeching out the other fear and smug prediction about the doomed fate of an imagined dystopia should liberty ever be truly taken seriously.

It's sometimes hard to tell which is which (so I start with extending the benefit of the doubt to each person), but the metaphorical "digging in of the heels" is often a good indicator. The truth seeker, while perhaps uncomfortable with the idea of abolishing the state, will at least consider your arguments with some effort at intellectual honesty. The behavior and tactics of the hardened minarchist will usually show their true intent. I find such people despicable.

Minarchist philosophers are the enemy mostly because they're the evil sirens, luring those who are on their way to truth to an easier path. Siding with the statist-quo is the easy cop out. "The state isn't evil, it's just too big." "Any man (or group of men) having the final say over others isn't slavery, it's simply the necessity of an orderly society." "Turn back, stop here." "No need to look further. Only crazy/utopian anarchists in that direction."

Absolutely, many (most?) of us came through the minarchist path and still made it here. But how many more have turned back from the goal because of the soothing poison of the minarchist philosophers?

So as far as philosophy goes, minarchy is not the brother or even cousin of libertarianism. It's the runt offspring (same family) of the sworn enemy (statism - acceptance of aggression-ism). Minarchy is not a philosophy compatible with the philosophy of liberty. The term "libertarian minarchist" is a contradiction. No one can support liberty and the state (regardless of its desired size - fiat monopoly jurisdiction, the very minimal requirement for a state, inherently involves aggression).

As far as tactics go. Yeah, that's a little bit more unclear to most, so such strict "purity" is perhaps not necessary. However, once I read de la Boettie, it seems that the strategy for liberty is pretty clear cut, in the general scheme. The state only exists because it is perceived by enough people differently than other criminal organizations (like street gangs or the mafia). It is not force alone that sustains the state, it is legitimacy. With that in mind, it seems clear that the only true advances for liberty are steps that de-legitimize the state in the minds of the masses. Anything that contributes to the legitimacy of the state works contrary to that goal. To which end does the minarchist philosophy support? I think the answer is clear.

I'm not sure if Rothbard's political activism came before or after his realization of de la Boettie's insight. That might be interesting to find out, since I don't see how any political action can be productive in light of this [update; "The Political Thought of Étienne de La Boétie." was written in 1975 - hmmm...]. Of course, the libertarian is happy to see the state decrease. But engaging in the political process only serves to strengthen the idea that the state can be reformed, and that supports the legitimacy of statism. So while Rothbard was ultimately "pure" in his philosophy, perhaps he was flawed in his practice. I certainly don't think he was infallible (nor am I aware of any who make that claim).

And in that regard, look at the result of Rothbard's philosophy vs his activism. Looking at the US state now, can one honestly consider Rothbard's political activities as anything but an absolute failure? The state has only continued to metastasize at a rapid pace, showing no notice of the man ever existing. But look at his philosophical impact! Yes, it's small in the grand scheme, but there has been a steady, if not (recently) explosive growth in those who have embraced a coherent philosophy of liberty. Certainly Rothbard alone can't take full credit, but his contributions in pure philosophy seem to have paid off and continue to bear fruit. When/if ever a critical mass of people finally withdraw their consent (more accurately, acceptance) and the state dissolves, it will be Rothbard's philosophy that had a part to play. None of the votes he cast, alliances he made, or political parties he joined/formed will even be remembered.

Mark Davis's picture

Excellent insight about the impact of Rothbard's activism vs. his philosophy BrianDrake. And that mini-statism is an easy way out when compromising one's philosophical principles.

I was brought up a statist, became a mini-statist and wound up evolving into an anti-statist. It was mainly Rothbard's and de la Boettie's sound philosophical arguments that got me there. So I try to give my mini-statists friends the benefit of the doubt that they too are heading in the direction of liberty and do not consider them as enemies per se. I also have become less patient with ministatists whom I see as suffering from what Glen and Scott call a "Pathological Obedience to the State" such that perhaps sterner measures of discourse may be needed to help them have breakthrough. I'm getting more and more like John said "Just leave me alone" and consider myself a Sovereign Individual. I am less worried about those who support the state, big and small, as long as they just leave me alone.

As Thoreau said, "I heartily accept the motto, "That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe— "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have."

One day enough men will be prepared for it, but I'm not holding my breath, or tongue, until then. This has been a great discussion.

tzo's picture

Yes. Nicely put.

Paul's picture

"The truth seeker, while perhaps uncomfortable with the idea of abolishing the state, will at least consider your arguments with some effort at intellectual honesty."

Actually, that is asking too much. Far, far too much. Most people would reject this outright, and I do not blame them for doing that. We (mostly) shouldn't be asking people to consider giving up the state. We should ask them to be leaving us alone. There are a huge number who would reject abolishing the state while consenting to leave us alone.

"Absolutely, many (most?) of us came through the minarchist path and still made it here. But how many more have turned back from the goal because of the soothing poison of the minarchist philosophers?"

And how many were turned back by being labelled "enemies", or asked to consider something that they were simply incapable of grasping at the time?

Please note, I (at least) am not talking about compromise. One doesn't have to compromise if one's basic position is "do what you think is right, just don't force me into it". Once can be very uncompromising with that basic foundation of argument.

BrianDrake's picture

"There are a huge number who would reject abolishing the state while consenting to leave us alone."

That is redundant. Consenting to leave us alone IS abolishing the state. A "government" with only jurisdiction over those who consent is not a state. If you can convince people to "leave you alone" (without requiring you forfeit your property - love it or leave it), you have convinced them to be voluntaryists.

tzo's picture

Exactly. They not only have to leave everyone else alone, they cannot arbitrarily carve out a few hundred, or thousand, or million square miles for themselves to the exclusion of everyone else.

Again, if you want to call a subset of people who agree to guard the person and property of all those members who agree to voluntarily fund this service a government, fine. I just don't believe any minarchist REALLY agrees to these terms, and that is why they are minarchists, and not voluntaryists. That's why they believe in government, and not voluntaryism.

Voluntary government seems as oxymoronic as loving rapist to me, a mashing together of opposites instead of choosing the correct term and losing the other.

Suverans2's picture

G'day BrianDrake and tzo,

    A "government" with only jurisdiction over those who consent is not a state.

The first is a de jure (rightful) "government", having jurisdiction[1] only over those who consent to be members, the second, "a state", is a de facto "government", "existing in fact [without] lawful authority". It is without lawful authority because it is claiming jurisdiction[2] over a TERRITORY, and EVERYONE inhabiting it, whether they consent to being members or not.

I might consider giving my consent to the former, I adamantly refuse to give my consent to the latter.

“How does it become a man to behave towards the American government today? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it." ~ Henry David Thoreau

"Define your terms, you will permit me again to say, or we shall never understand one another...” ~ Voltaire

[1] JURISDIC'TION, n. [L. jurisdictio; jus, juris, law, and dictio, from dico, to pronounce.] 1. The legal power or authority of doing justice in cases of complaint; the power of executing the laws and distributing justice. ~ Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

    Note: Notice that Noah said, "the power of EXECUTING the laws", and not the power of CREATING the laws.

[2] JURISDIC'TION, n. 2. Power of governing or legislating. 3. The power or right of exercising authority. ~ Ibid.

    Note: Those who are on their toes may have noticed that Noah said, "power OR right" at definition #3. The first (power [only]) is de facto, without consent; the second (right) is de jure, with consent.
kenfreedomrings's picture


Let me say that I am on the fence, not because I am a gutless coward. Per, I assume you have stopped paying income taxes and have gone publicly about that as I have. I assume you have done the equivalent of spending 5 years of your life challenging various laws such as the seat belt law, which was just a $25 fine, yet I spent two and a half years fighting it.

I am on the fence because I truly don't know if an anarchistic society would bring about more brute force, i.e., Hatfield/McCoy syndrome, than a minarchistic, very limited government actually held in check by the chains of a constitution.

To suggest that one can devise a system of no force when talking about human beings is delusional.

The real question is: in which system can we minimize force the most? I believe reasonable people can differ on that subject.

Ken Prazak

BrianDrake's picture


Out of curiosity. How long have you not been paying income taxes? Have you successfully defended yourself (I assume in court, or some sort of legal process) from the IRS? Or have you just gotten by under the radar (to the IRS, you mention "have gone publicly", but that doesn't indicate whether you've had conflict with the IRS). I started on this journey due to the income tax, and I've spent much time and effort (in the past, not recently) researching different methods to avoid surrendering income tax while staying out of jail (or having assets seized). So far, I've yet to find anything that "works" reliably. But if you've figured something out, I'd really like to learn more.

"To suggest that one can devise a system of no force when talking about human beings is delusional."

1) Not all opponents of the state advocate the elimination of force. Most recognize the justness of force when used defensively (a small minority are philosophical pacifists). It is only the initiation of force, aggression, that is truly incompatible with liberty.

2) There have been some compelling theories put forth that economic and social pressure may be effective in minimizing (perhaps never eliminating, though retaliatory force doesn't promise full success either) aggression without the need for retaliatory force. See Stefan Molyneaux's work for an example (among others). A reputation based economy, minus the moral hazard provided by the state, is theoretically possible without denying human nature. Purely out of self-interest, a person may refuse to associate or do business with a known aggressor. An individual unable to trade or engage society in any meaningful way will be at a severe disadvantage, and that is a strong motivation for compliance with peaceful norms. The size of the community may be a factor. The Amish appear to already have a fairly effective (to my knowledge) means of ensuring communal harmony without force. A large, heterogeneous city may be different.

3) Perhaps such theories are flawed. A true market test will reveal as much. And perhaps force-based protection will win out in the market. But to simply assert that such theories are "delusional" is quite arrogant.

"The real question is: in which system can we minimize force the most?"

The only "system" a libertarian envisions is the non-system of the market. That is the spontaneous order created by the voluntary interactions of people. It is not a system to be planned and imposed, but something that happens as people seek to satisfy their needs and wants through trade with others.

"I believe reasonable people can differ on that subject.""

Do you really? For as long as you advocate a state (regardless of your motivation), you don't extend the courtesy to those who differ to actually act on their convictions. "Yes, you can disagree with me with words, but only my ideas are to be put into action". You have every right to be uncertain of the results of liberty, but your uncertainty does not give you a property right over me, or my justly acquired property. When you advocate a state (even the mythical "limited" type), you are asserting an ownership claim over those in the territorial jurisdiction of that state. That makes you complicit in slavery and aggression. And yes, that makes you the enemy.

The unknown can indeed be frightening. But where, pray-tell, have you ever observed "a minarchistic, very limited government actually held in check by the chains of a constitution" to give you confidence in the familiar? Is not such a government also a theoretical construct, not available for testing any more than statelessness?