This is the first part of a study I’m doing on Gerard Casey’s Libertarian Anarchy: Against the State. This post examines the short introduction to the book. You can purchase the book on Amazon and through the Book Depository.
Introduction to Libertarian Anarchy: Against the State
Casey starts off in the most direct manner possible, which complements the bluntness of the book’s title.
States are criminal organizations.
If the book were to be summarized in a concise statement, this would be it.
In this declaration, Casey is not referring to some states, or corrupt, immoral states. To him, and to libertarians, this is a redundancy. The State is, by definition, a criminal organization.
Despite all appearances to the contrary, Casey is not attempting to be inflammatory by starting off with such a claim. Instead, he makes his case in a rational manner by using proper definitions of words and making a conclusion based on deductive logic.
The argument is simple: Theft, robbery, kidnapping and murder are all crimes. Those who engage in such activities, whether on their own or on the behalf of others are, by definition, criminals. In taxing the people of a country, the state engages in an activity that is morally equivalent to theft or robbery; in putting some people in prison, especially those who are convicted of so-called victimless crimes or when it drafts people into the armed services, the state is guilty of kidnapping or false imprisonment; in engaging in wars that are other than purely defensive or, even if defensive, when the means of defense employed are disproportionate and indiscriminate, the state is guilty of manslaughter or murder.
While refuting an argument made against the libertarian attitude towards taxation as theft, Casey also illustrates the difference between voluntary and involuntary actions. Someone who must pay their landlord to stay on their property is not being coerced into handing over their money. They have voluntarily agreed to pay the specific amount of money in order to maintain their presence on someone else’s property. With both parties, consent has been obtained.
With taxation, only the state’s consent is needed. The state can certainly attempt to gain consent, but this is in an indirect, artificial manner. For example, through the democratic process, the 50.1 percent can claim the authority over the consent of the 49.9 percent that voted otherwise. Additionally, it only allows for two options, whereas anarchism allows for limitless possible choices.
Because this is an introduction, Casey summarizes several common attitudes about government and addresses them in brief responses. Those who argue that the state is needed to punish criminals fail to address the flaws in allowing the state to determine what constitutes a crime. Taxes are not paid in the belief they are the best investment available. They are done through coercion.
The involuntary relationship government has with its citizens and others under its rule is the great flaw of the institution. It enjoys, Casey says quoting Jan Naverson, “a relation to you that nobody else has.”
“If you get poor service at a restaurant,” Casey writes, “you can protest. If your mobile phone refuses to function, you can take it back to the store and demand an exchange or get your money back.”
However, this does not occur when you are forced to undergo a pat-down at an airport by a government agent. You cannot object, unless you want to miss your flight. You cannot complain to their supervisor, because all they will say is something along the lines of “it’s protocol” or “they’re just doing their jobs.”
Again, the coercive aspect of the state is the root cause of all its many problems. All can be traced back to its involuntary nature.
Just as darkness is the absence of light, anarchy is the absence of government, and it is anarchy which Casey is advocating. He goes on to separate it into two distinct categories: Philosophical and practical anarchism. Philosophical anarchism, he states, argues against the state on the basis of moral principle, regardless of what outcome arises. Practical anarchism, as the name suggests, promotes anarchy on the basis of utility.
For this book, Casey says he will argue about libertarianism from a philosophical perspective. In my opinion, this is the most effective method at our disposal for the time being.
One thing Casey also addresses early on, and rightfully so, is the misconception that libertarianism and libertinism go hand in hand. In short, libertarianism pertains solely with the legality of one’s actions. Libertinism is a lifestyle and culture. Although many behaviors commonly associated with libertinism, such as prostitution, are legally permitted in an anarchistic society, this does not constitute a moral stance. A libertarian may believe prostitution is immoral, but he does not believe he has the right to use force to prevent two people from voluntarily engaging in it.
“The only question here, for the libertarian, is whether the law should be used to enforce a particular morality where the issue in question does not pertain to the matter of defending people against aggression directed at person or property,” Casey writes.
Another topic is drugs. Again, Casey separates legalizing drugs and condoning their use. From a utility perspective, he also demolishes the idea of using the state to control its use, citing Prohibition as an excellent example of its failure. Yet today through the War on Drugs the same programs are carried out to ill effect. It’s all a matter of property rights, and people have the right to consume what they wish, even if it harms themselves. As long as they do not engage in aggression against others while doing so.
Although there are other subjects he briefly touches on, he concludes with an important point. For the libertarian, the true libertarian, that is, it all comes down to the appropriate use of force.
This litmus test is effective in exposing quasi-libertarians or fake libertarians, including those interviewed by mainstream media, when they are asked about a certain controversial topic, such as immigration, gay marriage, or discrimination in the workplace. Their answer will not address the fundamental issue of aggression. Usually, they argue on the basis of social utility, the flaws of which I have written on before.
Casey ends the introduction with a thought-provoking observation that despite the intrusion into our lives in nearly every area by the state, there are still instances in society where we interact within the confines of anarchism. The question isn’t whether it is anarchy, he argues, but what kind of anarchy. This is created, developed, and refined through spontaneous interactions.
The next chapter deals with taxes, as well as the myth of the legitimacy and necessity of the state.