1) The State is unjust.
2) Private property is just.
3) True, both institutions involve coercion, but the difference is:
4) The State’s coercion is aggressive, which is what makes it unjust.
5) The coercion required to maintain private property is only defensive, which is what makes it just.
6) How do we differentiate this defensive nature of coercion that protects private property from the aggressive nature of the coercion that maintains the State?
7) See 1) and 2)!
When I point out that this is a bit circular, the only answer I have been given is that I should try a few more laps around the track, and see if I don’t get it then. To be fair, some people also have suggested I attempt starting my laps from a different part of the track; one ancap, for instance, just suggested to me that I might like starting from around 4) and 5) better than starting from 1) and 2). And some people seem to hold that 4) and 5) are simply self-evident.
Well, let me set out two examples that, I think, show just how non-self-evident 4) and 5) are. Now, I don’t hold these examples out as typical of State activity or the behavior of property owners, but they don’t need to be to make my point, as the ancap contention is not that State coercion is often unjust, but that it is inherently unjust.
Scenario 1I own a large farm. Every year, I let some fields like fallow. Since the farm is large, I like to survey it with my field glasses. Today, I spot a bunch of durned hippies out sunbathing – nude!! – in one of my fallow fields. I hop in my foub-by-four and drive out to the filed.
“Hey, you durned hippies!” I yell. “Get off the sods, mods!”
Their spokesperson replies, “Yo, dude, chill out. We ain’t hurting nothing. This field is unused right now, and we’ll stay away from your crops.”
“But this is my land, and I want you off it!”
“Yo, dude, I never agreed to these stupid property lines. It’s God’s earth, not yours, and we can wander where we want, so long as we’re doing no harm.”
“OK, I’m calling the
Scenario 2I live in a small city-state on the coast of Greece. I hear the Athenians are coming to kill all of the men and enslave the women and children because we refused to join the Delian League. At the behest of our αρχον I organize the resistance. I come to the house of a man I know to be too old to fight, but who has a large weapons cache. “Roderikes,” I tell him, “the archon has commanded me to requisition your weapons to use in protecting our lives and liberties from the Athenians!”
“Nah, you know, I just polished my stuff, and I really don’t want it all nicked up.”
“But Roderikes, if we are unable to turn back the Athenians, it won’t be just your weapons that are all nicked up – it will be you as well.”
“No, I don’t think so.”
So I command the men with me to seize the weapons despite the unwillingness of Roderikes to surrender them voluntarily.
Now, it strikes me that the use of coercion in Scenario 2 is, prima facie, much more justified than in Scenario 1. QED, the ancap assertion of 4) and 5) above is unwarranted.
The circle is not unbroken, and there is no better ancap home in the sky, Lord, in the sky.