Between anarchy and minarchism

While sometimes we think of ideologies in strict terms of left and right, more and more frequently we look at political schemas that incorporate a dimension for statism. Big government is possible for both conservatives and progressives; so, maybe, is minarchy. If minarchy is possible, and achievable, it must attain popular support less it be thwarted by revolution or contrarian voting. From this, maybe it makes sense that a minarchism utilize fundamental values from each side, in order to be pragmatic and achieve democratic (and thereby maybe stable) ends. Here there may even be room for an ultraminarchy.

In Anarchy, State and Utopia, Robert Nozick defended a minimal state slightly more restrained than traditional classical liberalism. This minimal state arises through natural market forces from statelessness, and serves to enforce contracts and produce monopolistic law. Nozick, although countering his fellow Harvard academic Rawls, was also responding to the natural law anarchists, who criticized coercive states for violating human rights — which, in the American tradition, often boil down to rights of property and self-ownership.

However, before arriving at the minimal, night-watchman state, Nozick articulates an ultraminimal state, i.e. a private protection agency that claims exclusionary right over the use of force for a given geographical area. It has its voluntary clients; the extension of coverage to others makes the agency a “state” as it introduces taxation.

In ASU the state is an entity formed from an invisible hand to produce heavily right-libertarian functions of government like protecting negative rights. Because of this, the minarchist state was a refuge for archist libertarians to claim as their own, relatively consistent with centuries of Western liberal thought. Accordingly, in response, the anarchists question the viability of a lasting minimal state — cue David Friedman in Machinery of Freedom:

“It took about 150 years, starting with a Bill of Rights that reserved to the states and the people all powers not explicitly delegated to the federal government, to produce a Supreme Court willing to rule that growing corn to feed to your own hogs is instate commerce and can therefore be regulated by Congress.”

Government grows; modern government grows really, really fast. Minimalism hasn’t seemed to last. So the question is, what sorts of minimal governance could last?

The traditional ultraminimal and minimal state are concerned with, as stated, traditionally libertarian public functions such as police, the judiciary, and possibly roads and maybe even national defense. The problem with these utilities is that they feel wildly inadequate to the modern American used to entitlements, welfare, or, e.g., a president. The privatization of nearly all federal departments — even when their failures are widely acknowledged — is seen as wild enough for John Oliver to entertain millions of viewers, at the blight of Gary Johnson, and make hardcore eliminativism a losing electoral program. The contemporary world is too complicated, or our enemies are too powerful, or the market is too corrupt for the reinstitution of laissez-faire in the 21st century.

Nevertheless we want a smaller government, or no government, and losing to the tide isn’t a good death; we’d rather fight, and we’d rather win. A lasting minarchism satisfies the broad purposes of limited governance — basic liberty, protection, and preserving the benefits of the market — while sufficiently completing modern democratic demands, lest it erode into statism or collapse internally. (Keep in mind that statelessness, at least this week, is not a winning platform.)

Here’s what I think lies between anarchism and minarchism: the redistributive state. We can make a couple assumptions which I think are likely true: (1) every public service, including public goods, currently monopolized by the state could be provided (and, maybe, could be provided better) by the market and non-coercive communities instead, and (2) the entitlement theory of distributive justice offered by Nozick is correct, i.e. holdings are just if acquired by peaceful initial acquisition, voluntary exchange or gifting, or rectification of a previous unjust acquisition. Taking these assumptions, and leveraging the fact that the American populace will not currently settle for brutalist governance, the redistributive state (RS) seeks only to collect tax revenues and redistribute money progressively.

Instead of offering vouchers, EBT, or public options like housing, schools, security and roads, a RS would only tax its citizens and reallocate revenue based on some progressive variables like income, net worth or consumption. (These details are less important, for now.) The only administration is something like an Internal Revenue Service, Census Bureau, and investigation unit suffused together, with over ninety-five percent of the current staff eliminated, with tax escapees adjudicated through non-state means.

An RS violates rights based on a Lockean or Kantian conception; it also does something which sounds pretty socialist to right-wing circles. For this reason, though minarchist, it may not be libertarian. However, the pragmatic element is also very utilitarian and liberal, which may interest bleeding-hearts; and, being essentially one big welfare program, it may intrigue American leftists currently eyeing a state takeover of health care and socialized education. We would do well to keep in mind that Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman were not averse to basic income either — a redistributive state operates a universal basic allowance and abandons the productive functions of the state. I think it is generally clear that, in a situation where we are already giving a person $X in the illiquid form of schools, transfer payments, utilities, roads, defense, firefighters, social planning, arts, retirement investing, mail service, etc., instead we should just give that person $X to spend however they see fit, to reap more competitive pressure from consumer exposure to prices and to align their dollars with their own individual values. If anyone disagrees, they might be too top-down to consider minarchism in any scenario.

The RS has many benefits over our current, vague understanding of contemporary government. In the first case, the reductionist perspective of right-wing anarchists, such as the stationary bandits theory, is validated, and a lot of the mysterious machinery and ivory-tower political philosophy is dissolved. Some of the bright spots of recent cameral formalist thought are validated, too, without the unpleasant baggage. (And armchair philosophizing about the Rousseauian general will is finally put to rest.) And, for the Marxists, their critique of the state as a tool of the capitalist class, which is true enough, is answered, since the state now greatly serves labor more than capital: some of the income of the upper classes is directly confiscated from them and allocated to the lower classes. Also, the state ceases to be paternalistic — it no longer chooses what food is available through SNAP, or issues health and safety warnings; it just straight-up hands out the money without assuming value for consumers. It doesn’t determine what is taught in schools, or what color the roads are, or which country gets bombed on Tuesday.

Perhaps most popularly, the RS has the potential to all but eliminate bureaucracy. With one small administrative branch which functions like a hyper-specialized agency, there is little room or need for massive proliferation and government by permanent staffers, where we find ourselves now. Likely, all seats will be elected positions along with some underlings, with the marginal tax brackets pre-established constitutionally and open to a similar amendment process. But, that can all be figured out later.

Now, there are some obvious flaws for an RS. First of all, the very wealthy, prima facie, have little incentive to stay in a redistributive state. Their money is seized and without tangible benefit for themselves, like roads or security. They have to buy those things on their own dime. The redistributive state is the antithesis of Galt’s Gulch. The primary answer to this I can think of is that, in a society with less state omnipotence (in contrast to today, where everyone’s first answer to a problem starts with a “g”) community ties will be closer — the rich will want to pay their “fair share.” This is the Hoppean trust in private charity, except that it’s now “forced private” charity. Also, taxes would be much, much lower than the current situation and hopefully tolerable. The taxes are also going directly to other citizens instead of politician’s wallets, oil tycoons, and potassium chloride. Furthermore, they’re paying to live in — the government still has a coercive and unjustified monopoly on land — the freest nation in the world. An RS is significantly freer than the other statist regimes, and less stressful. Government plays no role at all in everyday life.

One other flaw — maybe an inherent flaw of government brightly illuminated by a raw redistributive state — is what Murray Rothbard saw as an eternal tension between net tax-payers and net tax-consumers. To the extent that the RS administration is elected, and to the extent that politicians have platforms, a lot rests on whether or not taxes will be raised (read: redistribution will increase) or not. The left will continually be concerned with income inequality, regardless of whether or not everyone is well-off. The goalposts might keep climbing, to where taxation is no longer about fairness or the difference principle, but about punishment. At the same time, dialectically, the very wealthy will want to keep the maximum amount of their money and protect profit, regardless of my arguments above. Raw societal tensions like these probably require a dynamic form of governance, with fluctuations in party dominance, but the RS is too brutalist to feature such parties or other contrivances. The only hope here, I guess, is that the tension will be less than in the current system we have, where people openly talk about murdering the other party. And very likely it will be. (Also, the market will correct much of the gratuitous wealth disparity presently built upon rent-seeking — so it becomes an empirical question about what levels of inequality create what levels of tension, as there will be large inequality in any non-patterned system of holdings.)

In conclusion, a redistributive state would be baldly organized around theft (in a libertarian interpretation) and using people as means rather than ends. To that extent it is hardly libertarian. It achieves Nozick’s end of minimal government but distorts the typical functions we correlate with small government. Still, it’s ultraminarchical, preserves innovation, balances right-wing virtues like liberty and industry and left-wing virtues like equality and positive freedom, and, for a radical populace not quite keen on revolution, has the potential to be politically attractive. It serves welfarist functions demanded by 21st century citizens without the corporatist empire of the present. Also, no one starves. For all of this, even if a redistributive state is not perfection incarnate, it seems far better than the current system, and provides a culturally-celibate political framework to possibly achieve success in totally disparate societies from the United States. I think it’s a useful, radical place to look for bipartisan solutions to a complicated and overwhelmingly statist world.

I’m pretty sure I’m the first one to suggest a state organized baldly and singularly around redistribution of private income, either because it’s too stupid or it’s too grossly unattractive, so I welcome all feedback. But, if voluntarist alternatives are possible at all, this implies all the state is is a redistributor anyway. The idea of an RS just accepts this conclusion and makes it efficient. Keep in mind I haven’t elaborated on the many complications of UBI, which is an entire field to articulate more extensively, and which has its own numerous difficulties. For now the only question is would this form of government be possible.

The Myth of Common Property

An Observation by L.A. Repucci

It has been proposed that there exists a state in which property — whether defined in the physical sense such as objects, products, buildings, roads, etc, or financial instruments such as monetary instruments, corporate title, or deed to land ownership — may be owned or possessed in common; that is to say, that property may be possessed of multiple rightful claimants simultaneously.  This suggestion, when examined rationally and exhaustively, is untenable from the perspective of any logical school of economic, social, and indeed physical school of thought, and balks at simple scrutiny.

In law, Property may be defined as the tangible product of enterprise and resources, or the gain of capital wealth which it may create.  To ‘hold’ Property, a Party, or private, sentient entity, must have rightful claim to it and be capable of using it freely as they see fit, in keeping with natural law.

Natural resources, including land, are said to be owned either jurisdictionally by State, privately by party, or in common to the natural world.  If property may be legally defined only as a product, then natural resources may be excluded from all laws pertaining to legal property.  If property also may be further defined by the ability of it’s owner to use it as they see fit, in keeping with Ius Naturale, then any property claimed jurisdictionally by the State and said to be held in common amongst the citizenry must meet the article of usage to be legally owned.  Consider Hardin’s tragedy of the commons as an argument for the conservation of private property over a state of nature, rather than an appeal to the economic law of scarcity or an appeal to the second law of thermodynamics ,

In Physics:  Property may be defined as either an observable state of physical being.  The universe of Einstein, Kepler, and Newton rests soundly on the tenet that physical bodies cannot occupy multiple physical locations simultaneously.  The laws that govern the macro-physical world do not operate in the same way on the quantum level.  At that comparatively tiny level, the rules of our known universe break down, and matter may exhibit the observed property of being at multiple locations simultaneously — bully and chalk 1 point for common property on the theoretically-quantum scale.

Currency:  The attempt to simultaneously possess and use currency as defined above would result in praxeologic market-hilarity in the best case, and imprisonment or physical injury in the worst.  Observe: Two friends in common possession of 1$ walk into a corner shop to buy a pack of chewing gum, which costs 1$.  They each place a pack on the counter, and present the cashier with their single dollar bill.  “It’s both of ours!  We earned it in business together!” they beam as the cashier calls the cops and racks a shotgun under the register…

The two friends above may not use the paper currency simultaneously — while the concept of a dollar representing two, exclusively owned fifty-percent equity shares may be widely and innately understood — the single bill is represented in specie among the parties would still be 2 pairs of quarters.  While they could pool their resources and ‘both’ purchase a single pack of gum, they would continue to own a 50% equity share in the pack — resulting in a division yet again of title equally between the dozen-or-so sticks of gum contained therein.  This reduction and division of ownership can proceed ad quantum.

This simple reason is applicable within and demonstrated by current and universal economic realities, including all claims of joint title, common property law, jurisdictional issues, corporate law, and financial liability.  A joint bank account is simply the sum of the parties’ individual interest in that account — claims to hold legal property in common are bunk.

The human condition is marked by the sovereignty, independence and isolation of one’s own thought.  Praxeological thought-experiments like John Searle’s Chinese Room Argument and Alan Turing’s Test would not be possible to pose in a human reality that was other than a state of individual mental separation.  As we are alone in our thoughts, our experience of reality can only be communicated to one another.  It is therefore not possible to ever ‘share’ an experience with any other sentient being, because it is not possible to perceive reality as another person…even if the technology should develop such that multiple individuals can network and share the information within their minds, that information must still filter through another individual consciousness in order to be experienced simultaneously.  The physical separation of two minds is reinforced by the rationally-necessary separation of distinct individuals.  There may exist a potential hive-mind collectivist state, but it would require such a radical change to that which constitutes the human condition, that it would violate the tenets of what it is to be human.

In conclusion, logically, the most plausible circumstance in which property could exist in common would be on the quantum level within a hive-minded non-human collective, and the laws that govern men are and should be an accurate extension of the laws that govern nature — not through Social Darwinism, but rather anthropology.  Humans, as an adaptation, work interdependently to thrive, which often includes the voluntary sharing and trading of resources and property…none of which are held in common.

Ad Quantum,

L.A. Repucci

Telling the Truth and Tarentino, Liberals, the Secretary of State, and the President

I have a liberal friend with whom I have fairly frequent serious discussions. He thinks of himself as a moderate liberal, even a centrist because his owns guns and his guns are dear to him. Yet, he voted for Obama and he can give a spirited defense of every aspect of Obama’s policies and actions. That’s a test, in my book.

He told me once, but only once, that the administration’s program of at-a-distance- assassination-of-the-untried was not a problem for him. He dos not see how assassinating an American citizen, for example, on the presidential say-so, could be a problem, ethical or judicial. He does not discern a slippery slope. That too is a test.

He and I have had repeatedly two bases of disagreement. First, we have different values, of course. Thus, he insists that it’s fine for him to use the vote to take my money by force in order to give it to someone that he, my friend, thinks deserves it more than I do because he, the other guy, does not have health insurance.

I disagree.

Note that this is an actual example of a fundamental value difference because my liberal buddy does not have to go there to achieve the same results. He could try, for example, to convince me to give up some money on the basis of expediency: It’s unpleasant, even messy to have the uninsured dying on my front lawn for lack of medical care. (As they do all the time, of course.) Or, he could persuade me on fellow-human grounds. He does not feel like doing either because, I think, he has no moral qualm about taking my earnings by force for a cause he judges good. That’s a big difference between us. Continue reading