Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ayn Rand vs. Roy Childs

Way back in 1969, the libertarian essayist, Roy Childs (1949-1992) wrote an "Open Letter to Ayn Rand" in the Society for Individual Liberty's newsletter "The Individualist". Anyone who knows anything about Ms. Rand's personality and her aversion to criticism will understand why the letter is so awesome and ballsy. Here's how Roy Childs kicks it off:
"Dear Miss Rand:

     The purpose of this letter is to convert you to free market anarchism. As far as I can determine, no one has ever pointed out to you in detail the errors in your political philosophy. That is my intention here. I attempted this task once before, in my essay "The Contradiction in Objectivism," in the March 1968 issue of the Rampart Journal, but I now think that my argument was ineffective and weak, not emphasizing the essentials of the matter. I will remedy that here.

     Why am I making such an attempt to convert you to a point of view which you have, repeatedly, publicly condemned as a floating abstraction? Because you are wrong. I suggest that your political philosophy cannot be maintained without contradiction, that, in fact, you are advocating the maintenance of an institution – the state – which is a moral evil. To a person of self-esteem, these are reasons enough."
It's a great letter, and worth reading in its entirety, but it's not directly the subject of my post today.

Because I enjoyed it, I posted the letter on Facebook and it's generated a number of great comments from a lot of people. Most of the comments come from my anarcho-capitalist friends who already agree with the ideas contained in the letter.

However, today, an Objectivist friend - Nathan - came to the defense of Ayn Rand. That's something I might have done about 10 years ago... Maybe even 6 or 7 years ago... But it is precisely because of the kinds of questions raised by Childs regarding Rand's philosophical inconsistencies that I turned away from Objectivism (and even the lower-case "o" kind) years ago, so I think it's worth addressing Nathan's points.

Truthfully, Nathan didn't go into all that much detail about his objections to Childs' points, but since I'm procrastinating on an article I've been trying to write for days... I'm going to address his arguments one by one.

The first objection Nathan raised was that Childs' conclusions were "nonsensical" - however, he left the point far too vague for me to comment on that issue specifically so I'm going to skip directly to his second objection... Nathan writes:
"Secondly, he [Childs] claims any form of government is a "moral evil," but never says why. Disqualified."
Actually, Childs letter does explain why. It's based first on defining the word "government". Childs writes:
"One of the major characteristics of your conception of government is that it holds a monopoly on the use of retaliatory force in a given geographical area. Now, there are only two possible kinds of monopolies: a coercive monopoly, which initiates force to keep its monopoly, or a non-coercive monopoly, which is always open to competition. In an Objectivist society, the government is not open to competition, and hence is a coercive monopoly."
If government is not a coercive monopoly - i.e., if there were alternatives for securing contracts and personal safety and if you are not forced to pay for the government's existence, then we're already dealing with market anarchism anyway.

In short - if a government does not have a monopoly on force, it isn't a government anymore.

Government's coercive monopoly on the use of force within a given geography results in all kinds of badness, such as border/territorial disputes & wars, forceful intervention into attempts at self-government (i.e. Waco) and rather importantly, the mandatory collection of taxes forcing the public to support the government rather than charging for services rendered as one would do in a market.

That way, unlike a competitive service provided in a market, even if you want additional protection from a private organization, it would be just that... "additional".

You are required to pay for government no matter what. Consequently, claiming that a government can exist purely "defensively" or purely to protect people against the initiation of force while itself initiating force against people in order to exist at all is entirely paradoxical. It's not a point Childs is confused about - but it is a severe problem with Rand's logic.

Now, real quick... Let's look at non-coercive monopolies for a moment to explain the contrast.

Imagine a small town with one grocery store (like the town I went to high school in, for instance). Technically that store does have a monopoly on all grocery business, however there is nothing except their own actions which prevents competitors from cropping up and instantly eliminating their "monopoly". They only maintain their monopoly by providing adequate services at prices their consumers found to be reasonable. Economists sometimes use the term "efficiency monopoly" to describe this situation.

If the store started jacking up prices beyond what consumers were willing to pay and beyond the actual market value of the goods, new competitors would be able to easily jump into the grocery market and offer a lower price and take away most (if not all) of the original store's customer base.

Can that happen with governments? No.

Why not? Again... Because governments initiate force against anyone who might offer a competing defense service, thereby destroying them. A parallel in the grocery world would be if a store maintained its monopoly in a region by burning down anyone else's shops. Fortunately, that does not happen, and on the off chance that some business did burn down their competitors' stores, we would correctly recognize that as a crime.

And this is the point where it all comes back together!

Government relies on the initiation of force to maintain its very existence. This breaks the non-aggression axiom Rand takes for granted as the basis for moral good & evil. Thus, government is itself - literally by definition - a moral evil. QED.

Nathan continues:
"Rand never advocates a 'middle ground.'"
By defending the existence of the state, Rand did - in fact - advocate a "middle ground". Though she would have been the first to insist otherwise (albeit purely by assertion, as Nathan has unfortunately also done).

Limited government is the middle ground between authoritarian statism and the absence of a state (i.e. anarchy). This much should pretty much be obvious... But we can also do it graphically! Take note:

Anarchy ------------- Limited Government ------------- Authoritarianism

There are many fine arguments to be made for the idea that limited government might possibly be preferable to either anarchy or authoritarianism... But while Rand advocated far less statism than most people of her time and certainly more than most people today, it must still be stated that Rand's advocacy of so-called limited government is clearly the "middle ground" between other alternatives. Again... QED.

More Nathan:
"Rand advocates an objectively definable set of laws, which require retaliatory force to enforce, otherwise no laws can exist, and without such laws, no values can exist in any real way, even your "right to life.""
Ayn Rand and her modern-day supporters use the word "objective" way too much.... but that's a side-issue.

The only reason rights to life, liberty & property are accepted as valid is as a result of accepting the premise that individuals are self-owners and thereby entitled to make their own decisions regarding mind & body... Rights are a consequent from deductive logic once you accept that particular premise and you are actually committed to being consistent about it. It is that understanding which laws should also be created in line with (not to say that they always are).

People have the right to life, therefore it is illegal to murder. People have the right to liberty, therefore it is illegal to enslave. Etcetera.

But Nathan's statement mistakenly presumes that the law is the basis for rights - rather than the other way around. In the "Rights of Man", Thomas Paine wrote one of my all-time favorite quotes on the topic:
"It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect — that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but charters, by annulling those rights, in the majority, leave the right, by exclusion, in the hands of a few.... They...consequently are instruments of injustice."
Rights don't come from laws, but from individual sovereignty - as noted above. More on this in the short version of my video on the Bill of Rights:


(By the way... You can buy the full two-part Bill of Rights series for $4.00 at www.citizenamedia.com. Just sayin... you should do it!)

Anyway... The law definitely does not create the natural rights of man, and as such - it is a massive logical error to assume that only a government is capable of adequately defining how best to defend those rights. Moreover, Roy Childs' objections to Ayn Rand's view on the matter - and to anyone who maintains the need for the state in these matters - are directed at Rand as follows [emphasis mine]:
"This contradicts your epistemological and ethical position. Man's mind – which means: the mind of the individual human being – is capable of knowing reality, and man is capable of coming to conclusions on the basis of his rational judgment and acting on the basis of his rational self-interest. You imply, without stating it, that if an individual decides to use retaliation, that that decision is somehow subjective and arbitrary. Rather, supposedly the individual should leave such a decision up to government which is – what? Collective and therefore objective? This is illogical. If man is not capable of making these decisions, then he isn't capable of making them, and no government made up of men is capable of making them, either. By what epistemological criterion is an individual's action classified as "arbitrary," while that of a group of individuals is somehow "objective"?"
That pretty well sums it up, doesn't it?

If people as individuals are not capable of defining which laws are necessary and which are not, then they are not capable of collectively coming to such an agreement either. Remember: Society is just a word we use to describe a large group of individuals who share some geography or culture. It isn't a thinking creature all its own!

It goes back to the fundamental flaw in reasoning underlying governments and democracy in general based on the idea that most, if not all people are evil. Jefferson put it quite well:
"Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question."
Anyway... There's more from Nathan to deal with:
"It is his contention that "limited government is a floating abstraction which has never been concretized by anyone; that a limited government must either initiate force or cease being a government" is completely incorrect. I assume he's talking about tax collection.
To that I say... what is the point of defining air-tight, objectively definable values and a moral and ethical code, if you're just going to turn around and say it's immoral for anyone to enforce it, or ask anyone to live by it."
This is a multi-part issue.

First... Limited government is a floating abstraction, and America is the living embodiment of that idea. America set out to be the first nation on the planet with a carefully and strictly limited central authority. And that worked for what... a couple of years?

It was just 9 years into our nation's existence when the 1st Amendment was abandoned by John Adams' "Alien and Sedition Acts"... and year after year the government has grown steadily, regardless of our Bill of Rights or the other charters that were supposed to keep it in check. I tend to think that America's set-up was about as good as any country could ever hope to achieve on the limited government front and now we've arrived at a point where merely traveling around the nation by air requires individuals to completely give up their right to liberty as "guaranteed" by the 4th Amendment.

So yeah... "Limited" government seems to be a temporary condition at best...

Secondly... I don't think Childs was talking about tax-collection. Tax collection is a given, and by itself would prove that limited governments initiate force against individuals in order to exist (see my point about the paradox above!), but there are other abuses as well. Continual warfare comes to mind.

Third... Nathan has engaged in a straw-man.


No one has claimed that it is immoral to "enforce" (by which I assume he means protect) individual rights. Quite the opposite, in fact. It's merely been claimed that it is immoral for only one organization to have a monopoly on the protection of those liberties... as to maintain such a monopoly requires the government to initiate force - thereby violating the very idea of liberty it is ostensibly designed to protect.

The essence of government is contradictory to the protection of liberty. This is a big damn problem... Especially for Ayn Rand's views.

As I said earlier, Childs' full letter is definitely worth reading... But, I came to the same conclusions on my own after spending some time seriously considering all that I had read from Ayn Rand. I think a lot of libertarians should eventually undergo this transition actually... The moral arguments against the state are a good starting block but if most goods & services - like food production or health care - can be better provided by market-competition, why not defense? Why must government have a monopoly on force?

The economic arguments like externality issues and free-rider problems just don't hold up in my mind anymore... And even if they did, it wouldn't make supporting government in principle logically consistent - which, as far as I know, was always Ayn Rand's goal. As much as she liked to claim she had a completely consistent philosophy, I think issues like this conclusively show that not to have been the case at all.

I would love to have been a fly on the wall when she first read Childs' letter though. I'm sure Ayn Rand's outrage would have been the stuff of legend.

9 comments:

Roderick Fitts said...

I just recently posted this on a friend's facebook note asking for views on Childs's essay, and I wonder what you would have to say about it.

It's sort of a long post, but I think that a lot has to be said in combating the positions of anarchism, so I differ from Rand on this point.

Here goes:

"Childs was not an Objectivist, and as a consequence, wasn't versed in the Objectivist concept of *social objectivity*, of the fact that objectivity has broader applications in a social context than in an individual's own context. (Think of the objective criteria that applies to writing for oneself as opposed to writing for an audience. Think of what's needed to persuade yourself to do something, as opposed to persuading someone else. The latter has more requirements in both cases.)

On that point, Don Watkins's essay "Epistemological Anarchy" will be very helpful, and so I won't repeat anything he says there:
http://blog.dianahsieh.com/2005/12/epistemological-anarchy.html

(For elaborations about social objectivity and issues of force, see the comment section following Don's post:
http://www.dianahsieh.com/cgi-bin/blog/view.pl?entry=113519291721286737 )

What I'd like to comment on is an implication of Childs's argument, that outlawing private uses of force is initiating force by a government in all cases.

I've more or less said what I wanted to say in an earlier Noodlefood comment:

"We needed a system of government to place the retaliatory use of force under objective control: the implication of this is that there's no conflict between individual rights and outlawing private force (as Dr. Binswanger once pointed out). If outlawing private force is a violation of rights (an initiation of force), then we're saying that people should live their lives without a (criminal) legal code and that standards of proof for determining the nature of force is optional, but legally unenforceable. This would result in actual initiations of force on a massive scale, because the Objectivist understanding of "initiating physical force" isn't the universal interpretation, let alone the most popular. No one has the right to initiate force, to violate rights. The only way to practically implement this principle is to define individual rights and the nature of force by reference to a whole philosophy, not merely political principles, and to set up an agency to uphold this interpretation over a certain area. This is exactly what Objectivism does.

The Objectivist government outlaws private force, which is neither a threat nor actual initiatory force. It *is* a threat of retaliatory force by reference to a code of laws: "Don't delegate your right to self-defense, if that is your choice. But if you act on your viewpoint--if you resort to the use of force against any of us--we will answer you by force. Our government will answer you, in the only terms you yourself make possible." (OPAR, p. 372) The outlaw of private force is a threat of retaliatory force to any perceived acts of initiatory force.

[con't]

Roderick Fitts said...

[con't]

The anarchist won't reach this conclusion, because he isn't oriented to the Objectivist understanding of political philosophy, or of objectivity."
http://www.dianahsieh.com/cgi-bin/blog/view.pl?entry=5243204737503669226#66

Now with that said, let's consider something that Childs says:

"Now, if he succeeds in setting up the agency, which provides all the services of the Objectivist government, and restricts his more efficient activities to the use of retaliation against aggressors..."

Let's concretize "all the services of the Objectivist government," shall we? It means that this person, his friend, or whomever, has erected a private *military*, a private *police* force, and a private *court system*. How can this agency prove to everyone else that it is legitimate? It doesn't answer to our government, and thus it doesn't answer to our constitution, our legal codes, or our notion of individual rights. All we have to go on is their promise that they won't violate rights, and we can't even be sure that they agree with us on the meanings of "violating rights," "initiating force," and "justice." The very existence of such a private agency would be a threat to the citizens of the land, and cause enough for the government to properly retaliate and break it up. In fact, it would be an objective threat, because it has no connection to the legal codes of the country and yet metes out "justice."

Contrary to Childs, his agency's use of force isn't arbitrary because (1) Rand contradicted herself, or (2) she's somehow implying that an individual's reasoned private use of force is baseless because he isn't a collective, or government. It's arbitrary because it isn't socially objective, because it hasn't proven its procedures or existence to everyone else. To take an example: let's say that this agency arrests some man for an alleged crime and hauls him off--how does the government, or the rest of the land, know that the agency isn't simply *kidnapping* him and otherwise violating his rights?

I suppose an anarchist would answer that the agency answers to *its* laws, but now we reach the whole problem with Market Anarchy or AnCap or whatever: in a land of conflicting legal jurisdictions, who is the real arbiter of justice? Who will enforce its rules of social conduct, and how will anyone know that the enforcement is proper? What will stop the jurisdictions from contradicting themselves or each other?

In the case of a government versus an "agency," it seems to me that whenever the agency does anything and the government responds, the anarchist sides with the agency. Though it's never been stated this way, the anarchist merely *wants the agency to have sole, monopolistic control over the conduct of others*. He only has a problem with the government doing things, because he thinks the government must necessarily initiate force.

Again, contrary to Childs, the problem isn't the government's "monopoly" on force: Binswanger wisely remarks that, "It does not occur to them [libertarian anarchists] that private, anarchistic force is still force—i.e., the 'monopolistic' subjection of another's will to one's own." (Words in brackets mine.)
http://www.hblist.com/anarchy.htm

[con't]

Roderick Fitts said...

[con't]

The problem is that it is impossible in practice to serve as an agency for a group of people over a geographical area without a principled, *exclusive* monopolistic power. You can't be an agency that protects people's rights if you do it *only* when your jurisdiction somehow beats out the three or four other jurisdictions for some case that needs to be brought to court, for instance. The agency, *to be just*, can't pick and choose when it will enforce its rules, and it can't allow other jurisdictions to mete out punishments to *its* citizens when it clashes with *its own* codes and policies. Such a policy would be a political and legal absurdity.

(I'll add that this isn't the case with, say, the FBI trying to take a case from the police. There are already a set of conditions in place that designate when a governmental agency gets jurisdiction, e.g. the FBI in the case of threats to halt interstate commerce. There's no "competition" at all. Further, the agencies of a government occupy different *levels* of jurisdiction, which isn't the case with the defense agencies of an AnCap position.)

To sum up: Market Anarchy can't even work because it refuses to be a monopolist on the use of force, and thus leaves its citizens open to have their rights violated by agencies with different legal jurisdictions and interpretations. If a Muslim libertarian redefines "initiation of force," etc. to make it accord with Sharia Law, raises his agency and claims that his jurisdiction is all of the land, whose to say that he is in the wrong, and how will he be stopped? If he is stopped, hasn't the responding agency *initiated force* upon the Muslim agency, according to that agency's definition? If there are two conflicting definitions, won't the outcome mean that one definition has monopolistically ceased the practice of the other?

An agency can't do its job without enforcing its terms, definitions, and policies on the people as a monopoly, but on the logic of the argument, it would risk conflicting with other agencies and violating the alleged rights of others. Its moral position, then, is no different from that of the government, which in Childs's essay is a potential violator of rights/initiator of force, and then becomes an actual one once it *conflicts* with an agency and metes out punishment. In the same way, *any* agency in AnCap is a potential violator of rights/initiator of force, and becomes an actual one when it conflicts with another agency and metes out its punishment.

I believe this is a version of the "reduction to the absurd" argument. It's also the climax of the kind of argument Childs adopted for that position.

(But later abandoned: see his incomplete essay, "Anarchist Illusions":
http://web.archive.org/web/20030706104406/dailyobjectivist.com/Extro/AnarchistIllusions.asp )

I've already posted a few websites that helped me lead to this conclusion, but I'll give one more:

"The Contradiction in Anarchism" by Robert J. Bidinotto (whom I dislike, but I nonetheless recommend the essay)
http://mol.redbarn.org/objectivism/writing/RobertBidinotto/ContradictionInAnarchism.html

(The key idea I took away from that post is that:

"What anarchists omit from their basic premises is a simple fact: conflicting philosophies will lead to conflicting interpretations of the meaning of such basic terms as 'aggression,' 'self- defense,' 'property,' 'rights,' 'justice,' and 'liberty.' Deducing away, syllogism after syllogism, from these mere words does not mean that the people employing them agree on their meaning, justification or implementation." )"

Tell me what you think.

Roderick Fitts
"Inductive Quest"
http://inductivequest.blogspot.com/

Sean W. Malone said...

"To take an example: let's say that this agency arrests some man for an alleged crime and hauls him off--how does the government, or the rest of the land, know that the agency isn't simply *kidnapping* him and otherwise violating his rights?"

How do we know that the government, with a monopoly on the use of force, isn't doing exactly the same thing? (And in real terms... we actually do know that this happens with police & military forces world-wide with some regularity.)

Having personal security for yourself & your property provided by a private, competitive market would presumably factor in people's desire not to be tyrannized by the institutions they create.

There is a large amount of historical evidence showing that our current legal system - particularly common law - developed without a government dictating anything. People living in social communities found that certain rules that everyone in the community would follow made more sense than others - eventually these rules were codified as laws and kept around by formal governments.

Now... I get all of the objections, but the idea that a monopoly supplier of justice is the only way to run a legal system strikes me as suffering the same basic flaws as anyone who thinks that a monopoly supplier of education or health care would do a better job of supplying those services than a competitive market.


I also think it's worth addressing and reviewing the potential costs & benefits of a non-monopoly system vs. the costs & benefits of the current monopoly.


1. Wars are extremely unlikely. War is, I hope you'll agree, primarily a product of governments and politics. People trading with each other as individuals stand to lose their own property and lives if they start a war, and thus have powerful disincentives to go that direction at all. Peaceful resolutions are more likely across the board - and moreover, if a war did happen, it would be small and localized to only the parties effected... As opposed to dragging in the 1.6 million people in the American armed services and the 310 million citizens who have to pay for it.

2. Overall human rights abuses are very likely to become less common. Companies or individuals providing protection services can be more easily lobbied against than a government with a monopoly.

Imagine that there are 5 security companies employed by people in a given territory.

Now imagine one of those companies ("A") starting to imprison people who are protected by companies B through E. Purely in order to do their own jobs and get paid, firms B, C, D & E will work to free the wrongly imprisoned people and call attention to A's wrong-doing.


That's just a suggestion... And of course, the problem with any suggestion on my end is that it defeats the purpose of talking about free markets.

The whole point of a free market is that no one man is smarter than millions of people free to experiment and explore their own solutions to problems. So by even indulging the idea that I have to come up with examples of how a free market police force would work, I'm kind of allowing myself to get derailed anyway.

I must assume that a gentleman such as yourself, Roderick, who has made many fine points above, understands what I'm saying here.

Sean W. Malone said...

Anarchism is a tough sell to everyone precisely because it requires people to abandon the notion that one guy "plans" everything. Randists, Objectivists and Libertarians of all stripes are already clear on this principle as it applies to all sorts of things.

You would, I'm sure, think it ludicrous if I asked you to describe in detail the process by which food would arrive in people's kitchens without some central authority dictating the process all the way down.

We all know that is silly because we have a (relatively) free market in food production & distribution, so the market itself has already worked out a very successful system for just that.

But imagine if government had (up until now) always produced all the food though... Now consider what might be the response if I argued that a private market could do a better job.

Much like the battles over things like private vs. public education, I'm sure a lot of people wouldn't even be able to conceive of the idea.

Well I think that's the trap we're falling into here with police & courts.

Just because it has been traditionally provided via government monopoly does not mean that that is the best way possible to provide those services... And I might suggest that you'd be hard-pressed in a lot of situations to legitimately find ways in which it would actually do worse than what happens now.


Incidentally - this intellectual trap people fall in once government monopolizes a service is one of the best of all reasons to avoid a government-run health care system.

Roderick Fitts said...

I'll address some of your points later, but I guess the last part of my argument didn't get to you, so here's a second attempt:

"[con't]

The problem is that it is impossible in practice to serve as an agency for a group of people over a geographical area without a principled, *exclusive* monopolistic power. You can't be an agency that protects people's rights if you do it *only* when your jurisdiction somehow beats out the three or four other jurisdictions for some case that needs to be brought to court, for instance. The agency, *to be just*, can't pick and choose when it will enforce its rules, and it can't allow other jurisdictions to mete out punishments to *its* citizens when it clashes with *its own* codes and policies. Such a policy would be a political and legal absurdity. But now we begin to understand why Ayn Rand considered the whole thing to be a "floating abstraction."

(I'll add that this isn't the case with, say, the FBI trying to take a case from the police. There are already a set of conditions in place that designate when a governmental agency gets jurisdiction, e.g. the FBI in the case of threats to halt interstate commerce. There's no "competition" at all. Further, the agencies of a government occupy different *levels* of jurisdiction, which isn't the case with the defense agencies of an AnCap position.)

To sum up: Market Anarchy can't even work because it refuses to be a monopolist on the use of force, and thus leaves its citizens open to have their rights violated by agencies with different legal jurisdictions and interpretations. If a Muslim libertarian redefines "initiation of force," etc. to make it accord with Sharia Law, raises his agency and claims that his jurisdiction is all of the land, whose to say that he is in the wrong, and how will he be stopped? If he is stopped, hasn't the responding agency *initiated force* upon the Muslim agency, according to that agency's definition? If there are two conflicting definitions, won't the outcome mean that one definition has monopolistically ceased the practice of the other?

An agency can't do its job without enforcing its terms, definitions, and policies on the people as a monopoly, but on the logic of the argument, it would risk conflicting with other agencies and violating the alleged rights of others. Its moral position, then, is no different from that of the government, which in Childs's essay is a potential violator of rights/initiator of force, and then becomes an actual one once it *conflicts* with an agency and metes out punishment. In the same way, *any* agency in AnCap is a potential violator of rights/initiator of force, and becomes an actual one when it conflicts with another agency and metes out its punishment.

I believe this is a version of the "reduction to the absurd" argument. It's also the climax of the kind of argument Childs adopted for that position. "

Roderick Fitts said...

"How do we know that the government, with a monopoly on the use of force, isn't doing exactly the same thing?"

There's nothing stopping a government from doing that: a proper legal code forbids such actions, but people have free will and can choose to disobey such laws. And Rand was no stranger to that line of reasoning: "Potentially, a government is the most dangerous threat to man's rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims. When unlimited and unrestricted by individual rights, a government is man's deadliest enemy."
["Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal," Man's Rights, p. 374]

But the point is social objectivity: a constitutional republic has documents clearly delimiting its powers, and it is put under control by a set of laws designed to protect rights. When officials or members of the government violate those laws, they are put on trial just as anyone else would be (even more so in the case of military offenses). One of the safeguards of a republic is that its officials have to answer to the country's laws and aren't above them.

The agencies and private uses of force have no requirement to create a constitution, form a set of laws, or make their officials answerable to them--they don't even need to know anything about libertarianism or Objectivism or "rights."

I mean, who's to say that the Objectivist understanding of rights, or even that of the Founding Fathers, will be the most "competitive" in a market? [I'm assuming for the argument, but not accepting, the premise that a market can exist without preliminary rules already in place for that market's operation.) By its own logic, the competition involved could include any conceptions of morality and any conceptions of legal systems, except that they must apparently agree to not hold sole legal control over an area. And if I'm wrong here, who's to stop people from forming whatever they want? A government? Some other agency? Wouldn't that be initiating force?

"Having personal security for yourself & your property provided by a private, competitive market would presumably factor in people's desire not to be tyrannized by the institutions they create."

Well, the presumption doesn't fit the majority of the world. Most people in the world are tyrannized by their governments, but actual advocates of freedom are in the minority. Most people regard the ideas of the West, like "freedom" and "capitalism," as immoral, a sign of moral decay in America, and are content with following the religions and philosophical trends of their own country. Millions upon millions of Muslim women are subjected to injustice and barbarism under Sharia Law, but they still believe in it, and will stone their daughters to death for violating it.

Considerations of economics and personal security won't be enough to promote the kind of anarcho-capitalist agency you may desire. People are principally moved by their moral views, and a widespread practice of this form of anarchism will only lead to widespread injustice posing as the moral answer to the alleged injustice of all governments.

Roderick Fitts said...

"I get all of the objections, but the idea that a monopoly supplier of justice is the only way to run a legal system strikes me as suffering the same basic flaws as anyone who thinks that a monopoly supplier of education or health care would do a better job of supplying those services than a competitive market."

I think you've missed my point. I wouldn't have so many problems with Anarcho-capitalism if it was merely a collection of agencies that held definite, separate jurisdictions over a landmass: to me, this isn't much different in substance from a bunch of countries (perhaps small ones). If there is a difference there, please explain it to me.

My conception of anarcho-capitalism, from everything I've read about it, however, is different: in my view, it is a collection of agencies which have conflicting jurisdictions, and thus can have differing views on law enforcement, laws, interpretations of rights, and methods of proof on the same area of land at the same time.

In my interpretation, the principles of Anarcho-capitalism forbids anyone from stopping this rise of conflicting jurisdictions--this is the essential immorality of the Objectivist government in Childs's view, I think. And I find it impossible to conceive of how individuals are supposed to live with conflicting laws on the books that practically anyone can form whenever the economic interest suits them.

Roderick Fitts said...

Someone who really influenced my thoughts on this was William Stoddard, who occasionally posts on Noodlefood, a blog ran by Objectivist Diana Hsieh.

Here were some really influential comments of his:

On the supposed anarchism portrayed by Medieval Iceland:

http://www.dianahsieh.com/cgi-bin/blog/view.pl?entry=5243204737503669226#32

A proof of Anarcho-capitalism's invalidity by contradiction:

http://www.dianahsieh.com/cgi-bin/blog/view.pl?entry=5243204737503669226#50

By leaving the interpretations and implementation of legal systems and agencies to anyone and on any basis (on pain of becoming a "coercive monopoly,") the anarcho-capitalist forsakes that which he desires most--freedom.

Childs's original point was that even the Objectivist government is a potential violator of rights/initiator of force, and becomes an actual one once it stops some anarchist's attempt to form a new agency and jurisdiction. My point is that, following the full logic of anarcho-capitalism, any agency is a potential violator of rights/initiator of force, and becomes an actual one once it conflicts with some other agency and tries to mete out its punishment regardless. The coercive monopoly issue isn't escaped by prohibiting governments.