Thursday, January 26, 2006

Quick Kids!

Be the first to find all eighteen errors (and we're talking logical, not grammatical or spelling you cheaters!) in Carl Milsted's "The Need to be Anarchists." Here's a few to get you started:

(1) Even if one agrees that the proper punishment for a thief is to pay double, it does not follow that "theft is morally acceptable if all victims are paid back double." (Try changing the crime to murder if you're not sure.)

(2) Now, suppose the majority assesses a tax on everyone to spread the burden of supporting the new defense system. This is theft of the minority. However, suppose that the economies of scale are such that this tax is less than half of what people would have had to pay for defense on their own. Now we have theft with adequate compensation.

Putting aside the problem about "adequate compensation," this overlooks the existence of pacifists in the community. It also makes the strange assumption that the Pentagon is a cost saver. I think I could defend myself from terrorism for a lot less than (Pentagon budget) / (# of US taxpayers).

(3) "We can apply this logic to other government services where the economies of scale are so compelling, such as for country roads."

Even if we ignore the problem about theft and compensation, and that economies of scale don't necessarily lead to cheap gov't provision, there is still the problem that the market could provide the service in question. National defense is a classic public good so one could argue the market wouldn't work. But country roads? C'mon.


  1. Extending Milsted's thought, I declare:

    Observation 2: The minimal state has failed worldwide. Every society that had a minimal state has either been conquered or vastly expanded its own government.

    Since the minimal state is rejected out of hand by 99+% of the people, it is incredibly important to make it clear that small government is not essential to the libertarian philosophy.

  2. Regarding 1: I probably should have used "tolerable" vs. "acceptable."

    Murder is qualitatively different from theft. It is possible to restore money. It is not possible to restore life.

    Regarding 2: A pacifist will pay to someone if not protected. Theft of true pacifists is a sunk cost. If the state robs less than others would without the state, then we have a net decrease in theft.

    Regarding the Pentagon budget: if private defense agencies or personal self defense would be cheaper than our current Pentagon, then the anarchic solution is morally preferable to the current budget. But a minarchist-libertarian Pentagon budget would be considerably smaller.

    (Methinks that either would be cheaper than the cost of defense under anarchy, but this is a scientific question, not a philosophical one. This is the question that minarchists and anarchists should be debating.)

    Regarding 3: Suburban residential streets could likely be financed by developers, and could be dirt anyway. Business owners have an incentive to make through streets have high traffic so associations would likely maintain such. (But if the free rider problem is high enough, we might see a massive merger mania between big box retailers in order to finance such streets, or single owners owning many franchises along the same street.)

    Country roads support lots of through traffic -- users who are not local property owners. For high traffic roads like the current interstates, tolls would work. They would not work on smaller rural roads.


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