My journey politically went from anti-government in my youth, mainstream conservative in my teens, paleo-conservative/constitutionalist in my early twenties, and finally libertarian anarchist in my mid twenties.
I don’t really recall when I switched from mainstream conservative to constitutionalist. My views were somewhat disorganized and inconsistent. Aside from tossing aside the Lincoln Myth, American Exceptionalism the U.S. foreign policy took the longest for me reject and it did not happen in one moment.
I do remember in particular struggling over libertarian anarchy for several years despite reading sites like lewrockwell.com. The idea of a stateless society sounded logical, because it was, but my emotional reasoning prevented me from embracing it; I had all the knee-jerk reactions as most people do when they first hear of the idea. I thought of chaos instead of rules without rulers. I presumed circumstances created by the state would still be present in stateless situation.
And yes, to my shame, I also asked, to myself, “But who would run the roads?”
Yet trying to justify limited government, or articulate it, left me unsatisfied, because there was no concrete definition I could come up with that would also survive scrutiny. The concept of “limited” government is entirely subjective; what constitutes “limited” versus “unlimited?” Who gets to define these terms? What happens when the government steps out of those bounds, and who gets to determine when this has occurred and when violence is necessary? What about people who do not want to be ruled by the government their next door neighbor consents to?
As we’ve seen with the U.S. Constitution, which clearly gave the federal government limited powers, there’s no check on authority because tyranny does not happen overnight. Tyranny comes in tiny doses so small they in and of themselves are not worth the cost of a violent revolt.
So how would an ideal government avoid this?
I spent more hours on this than I can count, but it was something that I had to come to terms with before I could venture into other topics. I subconsciously knew I had to possess a sound, clearly defined philosophical belief to guide me or else I would get into trouble.
The catalyst for this change finally came when I viewed the following segment in this video featuring Tom Woods and investor Doug Casey of Casey Research.
As soon as the video was over, I had to get up and walk around my room as I came to terms with what Woods had said. There, he had offered the philosophical argument for libertarianism compared to minarchism.
In terms of aesthetic appearances, there’s not much difference between the two. Philosophically, however, they are akin to comparing a religion to atheism, because the premises are mutually exclusive. Minarchists can certainly defend themselves on grounds of practicality, meaning it’s the most realistic situation. In fact, in the short-term, it’s probably the best thing we can hope for.
But as a philosophy it falls victim to the same problem as all limited government beliefs in that it cannot specifically define the limitations of government because it has to accept the use of coercion and aggression in order to survive as a system. Therefore what constitutes a limitation is decided either by the government itself or the people who are willing to use violence to keep the government in check. As history has demonstrated again and again and again, the former happens much more frequently than the latter.
Libertarianism, as Woods has pointed out in other videos, is the most consistent political philosophy that has ever existed. The Non-Aggression Principle applies to everyone and on an individual level. It does not make exceptions for corporations, governments, police, militaries. No one has “privilege” over the other that makes it acceptable.