Part 0: an Introduction for Normies
I have finally written a more or less definitive work explaining my thoughts regarding government and politics. The purpose of this post is to provide the context for what I have written. Until recently, I had no strong opinions regarding these matters, but I enjoyed hearing the libertarian arguments for free markets and limited government. Pointing to a problem and calling for government action to solve it is a very easy and obvious thing to do. Clearly, anyone who disagrees that action should be taken to solve society’s problems must be stupid, evil, or apathetic. However, I found it much more interesting to hear people take on the more difficult task of arguing that government action is inefficient, ineffective, results in unintended consequences, and that the problem was often caused by government action in the first place and that the smug and self-righteous people who do not realize this are actually wrong. Eventually, I realized that consistently arguing for the libertarian position requires identifying what is fundamentally wrong with government. Otherwise, there is no reason to be any more skeptical of governments than any other organization. Sometimes they do wrong, but in those cases they should do better and there is no reason to immediately assume that means doing less. If there are problems with certain policies, then that might just mean there need to be better policies, rather than none.
The obvious fundamental problem with government is that its power is based on aggression. If someone does not do what the government says, people with guns will put him in prison and might kill him if he resists. It would obviously be wrong if private citizens were to do this, and nothing gives the people in the government any special right to do this. Violence is only justified when used to stop aggression, therefore, the government should only prosecute violent crimes and defend against foreign attacks, while forcing people to pay as little taxes as possible. However, if government aggression is wrong, then, in principle, no amount of it should be tolerated. As surely as it is wrong to force people to pay for any of the various government actions other than those needed to protect people from aggression, it is also wrong to force people to pay for the police and military, especially when those are where the worst and most obvious government abuses occur. Additionally, law enforcement and defense are not fundamentally different from other goods and services. They require making use of scarce resources in the most effective and least costly way possible. If people are forced to pay for these services, then the people providing them have no incentive to do better. This is why these services are better provided by a free market. This is the ideology of anarcho-capitalism as I understand it.
Anarcho-capitalist theorists have ideas of how exactly this might work. I say more about those elsewhere, but I have realized that, for the purpose of debate, the question of whether such a system would work does not matter very much. What matters is the validity of the underlying principle. If the principle is correct, then that only means it would be better if people were to find a way to make it work. If it is wrong to steal and murder and seems that a certain end cannot be achieved without stealing and murdering, then one should assume that he has simply not thought of a way to do so. The burden of proof is always on those who say that violent coercion is the only way. Obviously, governments will never be abolished and replaced with voluntary systems any time soon, but I thought the idea of anarcho-capitalism is still valuable for demonstrating that the moral foundation justifying free markets and private property can be consistently applied. Government-provided police is as problematic as government-provided healthcare. If private security and legal systems could be reasonable, then so could fully privatized healthcare. In either case, government action should be viewed with suspicion. Moreover, this approach would make the priorities of libertarianism clear. Critics caricature libertarianism as a desire to totally liberate individuals from all moral restraint or as an attempt to justify corporate greed and consumerism. A consistent stance based on the non-aggression principle would make it clear that the goal is ending state violence and its civilization-destroying consequences. The argument against drug prohibitions is not that it is good that people use whatever harmful and addictive drugs they want; it is that it is wrong to imprison people who are not harming others.
The problem, then, is how these ideas can be applied to reality beyond winning some arguments on the internet. What would I say when those arguments are not about theoretical matters, but are about who to vote for? There is no major political faction in the United Stated which takes this consistent libertarian position. Republicans have done little more than speak in favor of free markets and limited government, and they certainly do not address the government actions which cause the greatest distortions in the economy and cause so many of the worst problems in the United States and the world. Even if this kind of radical libertarianism were to become popular and get some people elected, they would probably not get very much done, as they would be opposed by every entrenched interest. Anything they do manage to accomplish will either serve those interests or be undone later. I found it difficult to argue against those saying that an agenda such as that of Bernie Sanders is the most realistic option for ending the worst abuses of the government. Perhaps this would be the way to have a government which helps people instead of hurting them. Instead of trying to convince people that government should be severely reduced, it is probably more realistic to gain popular support for an agenda to make the government serve the common people instead of the elites. Perhaps policies such as what Sanders calls for have problems, but radical libertarianism is not a realistic option. The realistic options might only be left-wing or right-wing populism and the establishment.
Of all the ideas discussed by the libertarians and anarcho-capitalists I was listening to, I thought the one which could be turned into an effective political platform is decentralization. Instead of a one government ruling a huge number of people across a massive territory as the federal government of the United States does, it would be better if there were many small states each ruling a small population. Regions within a state should be able to secede from it. Any government ruling over smaller administrative units should be restrained to a few limited functions so that those smaller units may decide everything else. This way, governments would be closer to being voluntary associations and would be subject to market forces. I thought this is the idea which holds the solution to so many of the problems in the United States. This would be a way to point to the worst problems caused by the federal government while proposing a solution which puts aside all the various issues people disagree on. Decentralization and localism are non-partisan and non-ideological ideas which are perfectly consistent with the founding principles of the United States’ federal system and do not require inventing new ways of ordering society.
The pandemic and the responses to it by governments happened while I was having these thoughts. These events led some of the people, whom I was listening to and who introduced me to these ideas, to question libertarianism. Suddenly government tyranny was real and not abstract and distant, and many people enthusiastically support it. Moreover, the people I was listening to were frustrated by other libertarians not taking the situation seriously and making a point of not supporting actions to push back against the hysteria such as governors banning private drug mandates because they are unlibertarian. Those people I listen to, mostly represented by Peter Quiñones, as well as others began discussing these issues and came to be called “post-libertarians”. The questions they were dealing with were some of the same ones I had been, and they had some of the same answers. They discussed issues such as whether people want to be free, whether it is possible to have a society without a state, the problem of atheism in libertarianism, whether the non-aggression principle should be reconsidered as it might to prevent one from taking action to stop evil. I generally think they are correct about most things, but I still think libertarianism or anarcho-capitalism as I have explained it here is basically correct and that “post-libertarianism” would be wrong to reject it. I will try to explain how it might be possible to take strong action which is more or less in line with the non-aggression principle as well as why it worth thinking about how this could be done for purely pragmatic reasons.
This is the context in which the following three posts are written. They are intended to address the people having these discussions. As such, there are certain assumptions underlying what I have written which are controversial to most people, but are accepted by those whom I address. In addition to the ideas I have explained here, these assumptions come from the ideas of people such as Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Curtis Yarvin, particularly the ideas that monarchy is better than democracy, that the political right represents order and that the political left represents chaos and is, therefore, evil. While I think these ideas are correct in the proper context, the purpose of my writing is not to argue for or against these ideas, but only to address those who do accept them. If you are on the left and strongly object to these ideas, I am not addressing you. Indeed, I hope my ideas might make the right better and show what the libertarian and un-libertarian parts of the right can agree on. If you do not think what I have written here is absurd, but do not care about these debates I am responding to, I suggest skipping to part 3 where I say what I think it might take to make my ideal a reality