Common Questions & Objections on Libertarian Anarchy

One thing I often notice about questions concerning libertarian anarchy is that at the heart of their contention is a logical fallacy. The assumption is that certain conditions inherent in circumstance A is present in circumstance B. In other words, they take various conditions that are the direct result of having a government or state and presume such conditions will exist in a stateless society, when in reality removing government would also remove the problem they are trying to address.

A somewhat simplistic example of this is to have two situations, one actual and the other theoretical; one in which a family has a child and another in which the family is childless. The fallacy is to presume that despite not having children, the family would be faced with the same issues as they do with a child that require a child in order to exist in the first place. This logic fails to account for the fact that not having the child in the situation takes away the conditions the child is responsible for.

So it is the same with libertarian anarchy. Merely removing coercion and violence from the situation gets rid of the very thing they are worried about.

Objections

Questions

The idea of a stateless society is utopian!

Note: This is an updated objection.

This is reframing the argument.Whether a stateless society is feasible or not doesn’t disprove or invalidate the Non-Aggression Principle anymore than the existence of slavery demonstrates abolitionism to be wrong. We are discussing what is ethical and what is not.

Libertarianism is not a religion, and its adherents aren’t called upon to create a paradise on Earth. It is a political philosophy concerned with the use of coercion and aggression. Although it de facto forbids the state, that is not its primary purpose. The philosophy provides a set of ethics for how people should behave and why. A person who adheres to libertarianism may not like the state and wish to see it abolished entirely, but the existence of the state doesn’t mean that their ethics are in error.

Libertarians just don’t like being told what to do


No, we don’t. I also don’t see anything wrong with this in a legal sense, as long as we do not violate other people’s rights. Which person would you prefer to live next to; someone who wants to be left alone and not have someone else pry into their affairs without their consent, or someone who  loves telling other people what to do and is willing to use violence to force them to obey?

Aren’t libertarians really Neo-Confederates?


This argument is based on the fact that libertarians do not subscribe to the propaganda version of the American Civil War, in which it was waged by the North in order to end slavery in the South. In reality, the war had greater and more far-reaching consequences which are intentionally overlooked or downplayed.

Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1940 was unjust and appalling, with countless atrocities and indescribable brutality. Finding it morally repugnant, however, is not a defense of communism or a reflection on Stalin’s leadership.

Likewise, being repulsed by the unconstitutional actions by Lincoln, as well as the war atrocities committed by Union generals such as Sheridan and Sherman, should not and cannot be regarded as an exoneration of the Confederate government.

For libertarians, the fact that the president blockaded states with the navy, conscripted men into the army, caused damage to private property, suspended habeas corpus, shut down newspapers, and jailed individuals for exercising their First Amendment rights is worthy of more than a passing note in the history textbooks.

We also can’t help but notice every time a president violates our rights, they use Lincoln’s actions to justify it, and when they do few dare to protest at the risk of being called a “neo-Confederate” or “racist,” which is odd given Lincoln’s own view on other races.

One can’t help but ask that if someone actually believes the president has this kind of power over other Americans, then on what basis do they oppose slavery?

If you want to get a more accurate depiction of what happened to the country and the Constitution during the Civil War, Tom DiLorenzo’s The Real Lincoln is a great book to pick up, as well as Tom Wood’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History.

Not wanting to pay taxes is anti-social. Taxes are necessary for things such as roads, streets, water, electricity, schools, ect.


This is a declarative statement without any logic to support it. Putting aside the fact that calling someone anti-social is not exactly the most Socratic way to reach a conclusion, let’s assume it’s true. Being anti-social is not a crime, nor does it violate anyone’s rights. You do not have a right to make me socialize with you or anyone else.

Saying taxes are necessary begs the question being asked. Why are they necessary? Are they necessary because only governments provide them? Or are they necessary because governments hold a monopoly or close to one on these services and therefore in order to receive them one must pay.

Taxes are also involuntary. No one pays taxes because they choose to do so. Isn’t a little strange to call someone anti-social for having a less than cheerful attitude about being forced to do something under the threat of violence? Isn’t it rather anti-social to believe that the most humane way to solve a problem is with violence and coercion?

Libertarians are selfish and don’t want to share anything. We’re supposed to take care of each other.


Nobody “shares” anything when they pay taxes. Taxes are not voluntary. Sharing is voluntary and therefore not a violation of anyone’s rights. But whether I share everything I have or nothing at all is no one’s business but my own. What is ethical and moral is not the same as what is legal. I may or may not have a moral obligation to help my fellow man. But I have absolutely no legal obligation.

This statement also raises some troubling questions. If I am forced to give something I have to another under the threat of violence, and it is a crime for me to not hand it over, then I do not have a legal right to keep it. If it does not belong to me, then it belongs to someone else. If I am required to earn it so that I may give it to someone else who has a legal claim to its ownership, then how it any different than slavery?

“We’re supposed to take care each of other” is not the same as saying “You are required to give us a previously decided portion of your income or we will take more of your property and also kidnap you if we feel like it.”

We are supposed to say thank you when we are given something. But we do not violate anyone’s rights when we refuse to say it.

Lastly, when someone says this, they really mean that other people need to take care of them. Not exactly the most selfless thing to say.

Libertarians favor discrimination because they oppose the Civil Rights Act


The Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act are often confused, when they are very different in what they do. The Voting Rights Act ensured that people were be able to vote. The Civil Rights Act, however, had nothing to do with voting. It outlawed discrimination against racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities, and women in schools, at the workplace and in public accommodations.

To begin with, when it comes to public services shouldn’t exist. But if they are forced upon people, then discrimination should not be allowed. If someone is forced to pay for something without their consent, already a violation of their rights, it’s an even greater violation to deny them the use of it. (On a side note, is it not discrimination to force someone to pay for a sports stadium or public park and then not allow them access to it without paying yet again?)

The whole controversy over public accommodations and discrimination would have been solved if government hadn’t been involved in the first place.

It was governments, one may recall, that cemented segregation in the South, and in the North before the Civil War they had laws in states such as Illinois that practically ensured free blacks had no rights. Jim Crow Laws, after all, were created and enforced by governments, not societies allowed to interact as they saw fit. Private businesses were not merely allowed to discriminate; they were required by law.

Whether the intent behind the CRA was good is frankly irrelevant. Good intentions do automatically translate into good laws.

The biggest flaw with the CRA is that it criminalizes certain thoughts and the rationale for why people do or do not do something. Not only is this a blatantly Orwellian way of thinking, but it makes it impossible to enforce strictly on that basis alone. How does one prove discrimination beyond a reasonable doubt?

The short answer is that you can’t, so instead to determine whether discrimination occurred, faulty logic is employed. The result is that any business or company is vulnerable to a discrimination lawsuit and must pro-actively take steps to protect themselves. They also have to complete government forms saying how many people of a certain race they have employed there.

Such laws also violate the rights of individuals to do with their property as they please, and the logic used to justify such legislation is contradictory. For example, if you own a grocery store, it is illegal to discriminate based on religion or gender when deciding who can enter. However, literary agents are free to openly discriminate when it comes to the type of books and authors they represent. Many literary agents state on their website they are not interested in representing religious-themed books, or they are exclusive about the type of genre they represent.

One would be hard pressed to show how Hollywood doesn’t employ countless forms of discrimination when selecting actors and actresses for roles in a film or TV show, including political, religious, and racial.

The reality is that we have made discrimination illegal in some instances, but not others, when people should be free to discriminate however they see fit as to what they do with their own property. I emphasize this to make it very clear that discrimination that involves violence and coercion against an innocent person, or deprives them of their property rights, is a violation of libertarian philosophy.

I also wish to say, in order to allow no room for misinterpretation, that we are not addressing the morality of a certain type of discrimination. That is not the issue at hand. It is not the government’s role to determine morality through legislation. It’s job is to protect individual rights.

The question is whether it should be legal for people to do with their property as they see fit. If the answer is anything other than yes, then they do not own their property. The government does.

Putting rights aside, one also has to ask if legislation like this has helped or damaged race relations in the country, or if it has even been effective at combating discrimination.

The libertarian solution is for people to voluntarily interact with one another and that this leads to greater harmony between different groups than any government decree, which always involves coercion and violence or threats of violence.

On a final note, discrimination is a neutral word. Outside of any context, it holds no moral meaning. When I choose not to associate with someone because I do not trust them, that is discriminating. When I choose to marry, I’m discriminating against all other potential spouses by selecting one over the rest. Much like there is the concept of making good or poor judgment, there is such thing as discriminating prudently or foolishly.

Laurence Vance explains here why discrimination is essential to freedom of choice.

Libertarians are too idealistic/unrealistic. That isn’t the way the world works.


In the 20th Century, there were two world wars that saw tens of millions of people killed, not to mention mass starvation, genocide, ethnic-cleansings, extermination of people based on their religious, political, or cultural affiliations, gulags, concentration camps, killing fields, and much more.

All of these were committed by governments. Not one was committed in a libertarian anarchist society.

If anyone is unrealistic or idealistic, it is the person who believes that governments can be trusted to regulate themselves and restrain themselves from abusing their power.

If we didn’t have government there would be chaos. We need government to protect us and maintain law and order.


Again, this statement is a mere declaration without evidence to back it up. It is true that the absence of government can lead to chaos, but much of the time it is due to the power structure the government created, then left for various factions to fight over. Civil wars are not fought by countries trying to leave each other alone. They are waged by groups seeking to have control over the whole country.

Often government can provide law and order. This is true. But it can also carry out acts of violence on a scale that would otherwise not be possible.

At the heart of the matter is consent. Governments are meant to protect the rights of those underneath is authority. In theory, it is also supposed to derive its powers from the consent of those it governs. But in practice, this simply does not happen. If you doubt it, try telling the Internal Revenue Service you do not consent to the Income Tax and see if they will respect your decision.

Anarchists do not deny that law and order is necessary for prosperity and freedom. This is where anarchists are inaccurately believed to favor chaos and the unfettered ability to do what they please regardless of how it affects others. What we believe is that a free, voluntary society would create law and order and do a better job of it than a government can and protect the rights of individuals more effectively.

A good example of this is the American West. In spite of the traditional Hollywood depiction of the time period as violent, disorganized, and rife with bloodshed and gunfights, there was actually little crime in western towns due to a variety of reasons that include private security enforcing the law and a high gun ownership that discouraged crime. In his book 33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask, Tom Woods discusses this myth and what the actual facts tell us about the possibility of a lawful society without the state.

Libertarians are just obsessed with money/drugs/economy/politics


In the United States, the federal government holds a monopoly on the currency used for public and private debts through legal tender laws that prohibit any competing currency. It decides what drugs you can and cannot put into your body through the Controlled Substance Act that has little to do with the safety of the drug itself. It has thousands of pages of regulations controlling the country’s economy down to the minutiae, such as whom you can hire to how much you must pay them. The Federal Reserve, the government-run central bank, has caused the dollar to lose over 90% of its value since 1913 from inflation due to the power to print paper money. The Federal Reserve also creates the bust-boom cycle that causes artificial prosperity, then recession/depression, through its ability to set interest rates determined by a single chairman nominated by the president, which leads to manipulation of the financial industry and lending practices. The government also has a monopoly over the political system employed to determine how, when and where officials are elected to office. It tells us, the people, how we are allowed to choose the manner in which they rule over us.

Libertarians may or may not be obsessed with money/drugs/economics/politics. But the government is beyond a doubt obsessed, and it has caused harm in every area mentioned. Libertarians want to be able to do with property we have in the form of money, drugs, businesses, ect., as we see fit while not infringing on any else’s rights. The government believes it has the legitimate authority to control it all and use violence and coercion to extract obedience from those who do not comply.

Government’s are a necessary evil. They aren’t perfect, but it’s better than chaos.


Again, this is merely a declaratory statement without any logic or reasoning behind it. And I would argue the opposite. Anarchy isn’t perfect, but it’s better than abuse of authority, genocide, censorship, conscription, warfare, grand larceny, kidnapping, mass surveillance, and other actions that the State has carried out on a larger scale and in a more effective manner than any other entity in human history.

Libertarians are just paranoid and hate authority


Neither of which is a crime, neither of which is a violation of another person’s rights, neither of which justifies the use of violence and coercion against them to force them to comply with laws and rules they never consented to, and neither of which are based on a supremely misguided understanding of history.

Consider the standoff at Ruby Ridge in 1992. Putting aside the issue of Randy Weaver’s purported eccentricities and strange behavior or other personal character flaws – which from a legal perspective is irrelevant – he did not violate anyone’s rights by living as he did.  Law enforcement officers from the federal government, on the other hand, trespassed onto his property, shot his dog, then proceeded to shoot his son as well as his unarmed wife as she held her infant daughter in her hands.

Who was the more paranoid in this situation: A recluse who wants to be left alone, or someone who shoots an unarmed woman with a baby in her arms because they feel she might be a threat to them?

Remember that not too long ago, those who believed the government was monitoring every phone call, reading every email, and keeping track of every transaction was called paranoid. Now, when they say it they are merely stating verifiable facts that have recently come to light, thanks to the mass release of NSA documents by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

 

Who would build the roads? Wouldn’t they be run by militias and have men with guns standing there to keep people out?


This is the first knee-jerk response I get from people when I argue for libertarian anarchy, which I find fascinating. I know it isn’t what people are saying, one might infer from their question that in order to have roads, we also needs governments that spy on us, steal our wealth and the fruits of our labor, violate our civil liberties, regulate our private lives, and place restriction our freedoms while pretending to represent us when in fact we do not consent to any of it.

To be fair, it is a good question. We are so used to having governments run our roads that it is hard to think of them being privately owned and how this would occur.

Nevertheless, once you begin to think about it, you realize that it isn’t as preposterous as it sounds.

Most public roads are built by private companies contracted by the local government, such as a municipality. What most people mean by this is how roads would be handled if they were private. They tend to think of private roads that are leading to people’s homes, forgetting that a homeowner has little incentive to ensure people can reach their residence, especially if they bought the property for privacy and seclusion.

Consider shopping malls; they are privately owned, yet people are free to enter and leave as they please. There are restrictions, but this is because you are on private property. Yet there are no militia guarding them.

There are a variety of possibilities for how roads would be run. One is that roads would be owned by private companies competing for users, which would ensure quality and safety, as drivers would prefer roads without traffic jams and the least amount of accidents. Issues such as speed limits and the exact rules of the road would be created and enforced by the road’s owner. Rather than tolls, the roads could also be paid for by local business, residents and property owners who require the access. Businesses have an incentive for customers to be able to reach their establishments.

Through the free market, entrepreneurs would be able to experiment and discover which business model works best for owning a road.

For more on this subject, check out Walter Block’s Privatization of Roads and Highways.

Who would enforce the law?


One thing we have to keep in mind is that in a libertarian anarchist society, there would be far fewer laws than there are now. The law would be reduced down to only those that pertain to natural rights and private property. Additionally, no one person could use a government, which claims a monopoly on enforcing the law, to exploit or violate others’ rights. Everyone would be able to hire private companies to protect their property and themselves.

This would engender a situation in which conflict would be reduced and both parties would seek to avoid confrontation as much as possible. Additionally, an anarchist society would inevitably be comprised of people who have respect for other people’s rights and have little tolerance for those who act in violence or in aggression against someone else. As it is often the case even today, society regulates behavior better than government.

One possible answer is that voluntary homeowner’s association (HOA) would contract with a private security firm, and the firm would offer cheaper rates for members of an HOA than if individuals were to purchase them. Plus, the HOA could require certain stipulations in order to be a member, such as the upkeep of one’s property or certain covenant clauses so that a homeowner doesn’t sell their home to a developer who demolishes the house and builds a factory in the middle of the neighborhood.

In a speech entitled “State or Private-Law Society,” Hans-Hermann Hoppe lays out the groundwork for such a society and how law would be structured and enforced, and in this article, Michael S. Rozeff elucidates the problems with a monopolized police force and how competing police departments would eliminate abuse and corruption.

How would the environment be protected?


Pollution and other similar issues would be approached from a private property perspective. For example, a company does not have the right to pollute the air on someone else’s property, nor do they have the right to put hazardous chemicals in the soil or dump them in the water of a creek, stream or river that flows onto another person’s property.

A great article by Murrary Rothbard on the subject is “Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution.”

How would natural resources be managed?


This question generally refers to vital resources such as water. The answer is that it would be handled the same as other resources, such as gold, silver, copper, oil, and timber. Water is a bit different, however, in that it doesn’t remain in the same spot, and what a person does to it on their property can affect the water flow onto another’s property. One possible solution is for property owners to make agreements as to the amount of water they will consume or voluntary restrictions on how they harness it (such as agreeing not to dam it). Individuals would want to do this not out of benevolence for the person downstream, but to protect their access to the water coming from the property owner upstream.

For a more comprehensive treatment of the matter, see “Who Owns Water?” by Murrary Rothbard. Also, to see how government control of our water supply in the western part of the United States leads to severe droughts and battles over control of the supply, read “The Economics of Water in the West

How would people defend themselves against war/invasion?


There are a variety of solutions. One is to have insurance against such an event. An insurance company would then have an incentive to ensure the protection and defense of those under its policy. If it does not fulfill the terms of the contract, then people will not buy its policy and the company will fail. And if it should be tempted to conquer other people who are not under its policy, those people would be under another insurance company’s policy.

This would be similar to the feudal system which, despite its obvious flaws and imperfections, was based on mutual agreement. A lord promised to protect the lands under his care with his military force, and in return those under his protection paid for it through tribute and taxes.

An excellent book explaining this is The Private Production of Defense by Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

How would a person be punished when they break the law? How would their guilt or innocence be determined?


Very differently than they are now. The concept of “owing a debt to society” would not exist, because when a crime is committed it involves victims, and only to the victims is restitution due. Therefore, prisons would not exist. For theft, a man found guilty would be forced to either repay or sell his services to pay it off. In Nordic culture found in stories such as the poem Beowulf, a person guilty of killing one of the king’s warriors had to pay the manprice, which was a certain sum of money.

Additionally, violent crimes were dealt with within Icelandic culture in a similar manner, which one can find in the Middle Age collection of stories Thorstein the Staff-Struck.

As for private courts, reading on this topic includes “Anarchism and the Public Goods Issue: Law, Courts, and the Police” by David Osterfeld, “Private Courts” by Shannon P. Duffy, and “Can the private sector provide police and courts?” by Edward Peter Stringham.

Who would ensure that food and water are safe to consume, that products are safe to use?


The free market would protect consumers from bad products because consumers would avoid buying from those companies and instead buy from brands they trusted. Even now if a company sells a bad product, they go out of business. Other companies would act as quality assurance providers, placing their seal of approval on products they have examined to confirm their safety to consume or use. Such companies would rely totally on their reputation and consumer trust, unlike government agencies. A current example of this is Underwriter’s Laboratories.

Currently we have the government regulating products through bureaucracies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Food and Drug Administration. Because they have zero risk of being shut down or going out of business for failing to perform their role, they have less incentive to ensure product quality as a private company would. They also get to decide what is considered safe and harmful, such as when the CPSC banned Buckyballs Magnets rather than let consumers decide whether it was safe to buy and have around their children. This not only leads people to believe, incorrectly, that if they are able to buy a product then there is no chance of them misusing it, but it is the government’s role to make responsible choices for them, therefore they are not responsible when they make foolish life decisions and suffer for it.

How would poor people be able to afford basic services, such as fire departments to put out fires or hospitals for medical care? Who would provide a social safety net for them?


If there is a demand or need, the market provides the supply. Inexpensive fire protection services would be available for those with less money through private companies, and people with less money could select different coverage plans based on their budget.

The same too with hospitals and medical care. Without government to subsidize or interfere with the exchange, healthcare services would be created to cater to those with smaller incomes, just as car insurance plans are available for those who want basic coverage.

To put it another way, poor starving children in Sierra Leone have trouble accessing clean water, food, and a quality education. But even the poorest can afford a cell phone, because there is such a strong demand for them phone companies can offer them at low prices. Twenty five years ago, only the rich had access to a cell phone. There is no reason to assume the same could not be done for other products, goods, and services, as long as the demand is there for it and there is nothing hindering technological progress.

In this article, the author discusses how coffee is easily affordable for even the poorest person in the United States, due to the free market and competition that forces companies to drive prices down and raise quality in order to seek customers. No one seriously believes that the government, if it took over the coffee industry, could make it cheaper and better quality. So why think any different about healthcare?

If libertarian anarchy is such a great system, how come it’s never been done before?


On a limited scale, it has. The Eskimos in Alaska and the Arctic existed without any formal government structure. During the Middle Ages, Iceland had a quasi-anarchistic society as well. For several hundred years, Ireland had no formal governments, either. All these examples, however, are of ancient cultures.

The real question people mean by this is why such a system hasn’t been tried recently.

Tom Woods gives a great answer to this, though with plenty of sarcasm. To put it plainly, it would require those in government with power or those who have gained power through government to give it up. And we’re putting aside all those who benefit from the coercion and violence used by the government on other people they wish to control.

Libertarian anarchy is appealing for those who love freedom, liberty and independence, as well as the ability to succeed or fail based on their own decisions, choices, and merits as individuals. For those who wish to control everything around them and force people to do what they say at the point of a gun, a state-less society is a nightmare.

Wouldn’t a libertarian society like this be overrun or destroyed by a more centralized government, since it has no military or defense to protect the people?


Ancient Greece was comprised of many small city states, such as Athens, Thespiae, and Sparta. Each city was relatively small. Yet, they managed to defeat one of the largest armies in history led by Persian King Xerxes, as well as repel a prior invasion by his father, Darius, at the Battle of Marathon. Switzerland is also a small country made up of numerous cantons, but has managed to avoid war since 1847, when a brief civil war broke out that resulted in less than 100 casualties.

In addition, countries with centralized governments are actually easier to conquer because all an army has to do is take over the capital or biggest city, since this is where most of the power and wealth is concentrated. When Paris was conquered in World War II, the country fell. When the British marched into Washington D.C. in the War of 1812, however, it had little effect on the decentralized states and they soon after withdrew. When the Persians sacked Athens, the war went on until the Persians were finally defeated at the Battle of Plataea. The one noticeable exception to this was when Napoleon marched into Moscow during his invasion of Russia, but only after the government had fled and burned the city to the ground. Not exactly the most preferred way to win a war.

In the end, however, an attempted invasion of an anarchistic society would be met with resistance because insurance companies would be created to deal with such an event. They would have an incentive to defend the private property of people who are covered under their plan. Insurance is a measure of risk, so to avoid having to write checks to those whose property has been destroyed, insurance companies would invest in having the best soldiers, technology, weapons, strategies and tactics.

Naturally, one has to ask that if an invasion was successful, how would the insurance company write the check? Or, what if the insurance company didn’t write the check?

To make a long answer short, if people don’t have confidence in the insurance plan, they won’t buy it, and no business will exist. An insurance company designed to cover war or invasion would depend on its reputation and the quality of service in order to retain and attract customers.

By the way, this is not akin to what happens when the government hires private contractors to fight in wars or send them into disaster areas. The concept of “privatization” is often misunderstood. When the government contracts with a private company, it’s not private. It’s paid for by taxpayers, yet taxpayers do not get to decide anything. Therefore, they are not the customer. When government is involved, it is not privatized.
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