State vs Society

3 01 2007

In his Politics, Aristotle confuses and shifts equivocal meanings of polis or city-state. Failing to discriminate the distinct concepts of polis1 (the state as a coercive political agency monopolizing law and force over a given territory) and polis2 (the larger community which includes both the coercive state and the various voluntary social institutions such as family, religion, schools, friendship, and commercial associations) misleads him into conflating both notions of polis. This semantic error results in the Stagirite’s faulty argument that polis1 (the coercive state) should not merely protect individual rights from force or fraud but also, confusedly assuming the functions of polis2, should make men good, moral, and virtuous—by force. Aristotle’s confusion about polis as state and polis as community blinds him to the valuable contributions to political justice and the proper limits of state activity offered by an ancient Greek version of libertarianism.
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A libertarian as conservative

31 12 2006

I agreed to come here today to speak on some such subject as “The Libertarian as Conservative.” To me this is so obvious that I am hard put to find something to say to people who still think libertarianism has something to do with liberty. A libertarian is just a Republican who takes drugs. I’d have preferred a more controversial topic like “The Myth of the Penile Orgasm.” But since my attendance here is subsidized by the esteemed distributor of a veritable reference library on mayhem and dirty tricks, I can’t just take the conch and go rogue. I will indeed mutilate the sacred cow which is libertarianism, as ordered, but I’ll administer a few hard lefts to the right in my own way. And I don’t mean the easy way. I could just point to the laissez-faire Trilateralism of the Libertarian Party, then leave and go look for a party. It doesn’t take long to say that if you fight fire with fire, you’ll get burned.

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Society without a State

28 12 2006

In attempting to outline how a “society without a state” — that is, an anarchist society — might function successfully, I would first like to defuse two common but mistaken criticisms of this approach. First, is the argument that in providing for such defense of or protection services as courts, police, or even law itself, I am simply smuggling the state back into society in another form, and that therefore the system I am both analyzing and advocating is not “really” anarchism. This sort of criticism can only involve us in an endless and arid dispute over semantics. Let me say from the beginning that I define the state as that institution which possesses one or both (almost always both) of the following properties: (1) it acquires its income by the physical coercion known as “taxation”; and (2) it asserts and usually obtains a coerced monopoly of the provision of defense service (police and courts) over a given territorial area. An institution not possessing either of these properties is not and cannot be, in accordance with my definition, a state.

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The Utopia of Liberty

28 12 2006

We are adversaries, and yet the goal which we both pursue is the same. What is the common goal of economists and socialists? Is it not a society where the production of all the goods necessary to the maintenance and embellishment of life shall be as abundant as possible, and where the distribution of these same goods among those who have created them through their labour shall be as just as possible? May not our common ideal, apart from all distinction of schools, be summarised in these two words: abundance and justice?

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War Loses, Again

23 12 2006

More than three years ago, George Bush unleashed the dogs of war on Iraq, perhaps hoping that he would take his place among the “great” war presidents. It’s strange how these guys imagine themselves written about in history books in the manner of Washington, Lincoln, and FDR, rather than Truman, Johnson, and Nixon. It’s been more than 50 years since war immortalized a president, and yet they keep trying.

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Muhammad Cartoons: A Libertarian Analysis

21 12 2006

There are several perspectives now making the rounds regarding those cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. For those who have been in Rip Van Winkle land, they first surfaced in Denmark and are now being reprinted all over the world. The libertarian claim is that these caricatures did not constitute fraud, force, or the threat of initiatory violence; therefore no physical sanctions should be visited upon the cartoonists, or those who reprint their work. This does not mean that such artistic acts were nice or moral or appropriate or considerate; they were not, in my personal opinion. They hurt the feelings of vast numbers of people, Muslim and non-Muslim. But, as long as private property rights and freedom prevail, such initiatives should be legal.

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Federalism

12 12 2006

Is France justified in invading New York City to force the latter to get rid its rent control legislation? Would it be compatible with libertarianism for California to forcibly prevent the US government from imposing a draft on California citizens? The federal government physically attacks Mississippi in 1950 for its Jim Crow legislation; Mississippi resists. Which side does the libertarian root for?

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