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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bob Murphy on Why We Need a State

OK, I've gotten a chance to read Murphy's entire piece on why warlords won't take over ancapistan, and it does, indeed, have the problem I suspected it has: Murphy assumes an ancap society functioning the way he thinks it ought to, and then asks, "Would warlords take over that?" Well, perhaps they wouldn't, but that really just evades the more important issue, which is, "How in the world are you ever going to get to that society, given that all the evidence we have suggests warlords will take over long before we get there, in fact, the moment state authority breaks down?" This consideration is, I think, a defeasor for at least the "I would throw a switch today and shut down the state instantly if I could" crowd.

But what about a gradual transition? Well, that is interesting, and you'll find my surprise answer at the end. But first some remarks on particular points Murphy makes.

He writes, in reference to contractarian theories of government, "Second, there is the inconvenient fact that no such voluntary formation of a State ever occurred."

Um, yes... and no such voluntary network of market defense firms has ever existed. This is a very odd complaint coming from an ancap! And anyway, the best contract theorists, such as Hobbes, never thought there was such an historical arrangement: their argument was "It is as if people had formed such a compact, and we should so regard the state."

Sometimes, Murphy should be clearer as to whether he is endorsing pacifism or anarcho-capitalism: I see them as incompatible, and almost all anarcho-capitalists advocate the use of force to prevent what they see as rights violations. But Murphy equivocates here: "If, by hypothesis, the vast majority of people—although they have different conceptions of justice—can all agree that it is wrong to use violence to settle their honest disputes, then market forces would lead to peace among the private police agencies."

But, who thinks that it is always wrong to use violence to settle honest disputes? Only pacifists. What everyone else thinks is it is fine to use (an appropriate amount of) force against wrong-doers, whether they honestly think they are doing right or not. When someone very honestly says he doesn't believe in private property, and insists that he can stay in any house he chooses, what are Bob's private defense agencies going to do? They're going to pick the guy's arse up and chuck it out on the street. And if he resists? Well, they will use as much violence as necessary, up to killing the man, to enforce their client's property rights. Private property and pacifism are incompatible, except in the Never-Never Land where everyone is angelic.

But let's turn to the most important point in the essay:

"Why wouldn’t the vast bulk of reasonable customers patronize defense agencies that had interlocking arbitration agreements, and submitted their legitimate disputes to reputable, disinterested arbitrators?  Why wouldn’t the private, voluntary legal framework function as an orderly mechanism to settle matters of 'public policy'?"

Note that this system is only "voluntary" to those who like the way it works. If the system is Rothbardian, communists will find its imposition of strict private property rights an imposed abomination. And Rothbardians would find a similar, communist system involuntary for them. But that's not the real kicker in this paragraph, because now we get to the punch line:

Just what would call a system of interlocking institutions that have the final say on what is and isn't the just use of force in some territory, and that sets public policy for that territory?

Hmm, I think there is a name for an entity like that. If the system Murphy talks about gradually developed from our current situation, it would be a shift from one form of state to another. That form might be better than the one we have, and it might not. But it is certainly not "purely voluntary." It certainly will (and must) use force against those who have "honest disputes" with its laws. Such rhetoric is a way of winning recruits, not a way of seriously analyzing whatever merits the envisioned form of state might possess.

31 comments:

  1. I understand your point about pacifism and anarcho-capitalism, and I've often considered them incompatible in the past. However, it was actually Dr. Murphy who showed me that they are compatible, and I am very impressed at how he has conformed his own pacifism to fit within the framework of an anarcho-capitalist society. What really made it clear for me is the knowledge that pacifism is an ethical position and that ethics aren't universal. I don't view AC as representing a particular ethic, I view it as being compatible with a variety of ethics. It was the Hoppeian theory of property that ultimately made this clear to me.

    Bob, being a pacifist, is merely expressing his ideal ethic within the construct of anarcho-capitalism. Thus, it is still compatible, it is just highly unlikely to be the reality. Bob knows this, and has often prefaced his talks on the subject with the disclaimer that he is a pacifist who is injecting his own ethical ideal into the theory.

    I do have more to say on other parts of what you say here, but I really must give it more thought before I do. I do have a blog post coming soon that will deal with the warlords and the "inevitability" of war without the state, so maybe I'll just address these other issues there.

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    1. Joe, I agree that we can have *a* pacifist or a few in ancapistan. They free ride on the enforcement efforts of others. But widespread pacifism would quickly lead the remaining non-pacifists to realize all goods are up for grabs. Private property would become impossible once pacifism is widespread enough. This can be shown formally in the hawk-dove game: a population of all doves is not stable!

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    2. Don't get me wrong, I agree that pacifism is both utopian and unsustainable, but I don't think that means that you cannot be both a pacifist and an ancap.

      "widespread pacifism would quickly lead the remaining non-pacifists to realize all goods are up for grabs"

      I agree. However, it is clear that such persons are no longer ancaps, but are purely pacifists. A pacifist who is also an ancap would see such a thing as theft, and thus would not take other peoples goods. I do see your point, I just think that there are certain subtleties that you're disregarding. I agree that in real life, the tendency would be toward the impossibility of law, private property, etc; but that this is due to the loss of, or the change in the value of, one of the attributes under discussion (anarcho-capitalism). If we assume the subject is equally pacifist and equally ancap, we don't run into this problem theoretically.

      On the hawk/dove game:

      Thank you for making me aware of this, I always like learning new stuff. However, I don't know that it can fully be applied in this instance. The reason being is that the instability of that system is due to the injection of a mutant hawk, not the sameness of the other group. Perhaps I need to look over it again to better absorb it, or possibly allow somebody more qualified to address it, but that is my first thought.

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    3. I meant to say "non-pacifists" in my second paragraph. I was assuming a fully ancap society, which includes both pacifists and non-pacifists.

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    4. " However, it is clear that such persons are no longer ancaps, but are purely pacifists."

      But Joe, I'm not talking about whether or not a single person can proclaim themselves to be both. I'm saying that the widespread *practice* of pacifism is incompatible with private property.

      And, also, I'm not saying it is the self-proclaimed pacifists who are doing the stealing! They would be preyed upon by the hawks.

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    5. Right. I actually misspoke. I was thinking of three different constructs when I wrote that; one with all pacifist ancaps, one with all non-pacifist ancaps, and one with a combination. For some reason I went with the 'all pacifist' construct in my response, when the correct response would have included a combination of the two. My fault. However, it still works, you just have to plug in "non-pacifist" in place of "pacifist". I actually made that correction shortly after I typed the above comment.

      Please keep in mind that my gripe with pacifism is very much similar to yours, and may have in fact been influenced by you personally. However, I do not agree that pacifism is incompatible with private property in theory. If one forms a theoretical construct that assumes all actors are both pacifist and ancap, then we see that there is no incompatibility problem. It is only when we inject the "mutant" that the unsustainability and incompatibility is present. You would have us believe that it is pacifism that is incompatible to the system, when in fact it is the mutant.

      That's all theoretical. In real life, "mutants" abound. And I agree that pacifism, on its own merits, has no way of dealing with this issue at all. But that is not a reflection of pacifisms incompatibility with private property, it is a reflection of the mutant's incompatibility with private property and/or pacifism.

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    6. "If one forms a theoretical construct that assumes all actors are both pacifist and ancap, then we see that there is no incompatibility problem."

      And followed both doctrines exceedingly well.

      And if humans were birds, theoretically human society could exist wholly in the air and treetops.

      I am talking about "incompatible in the real world."

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    7. Right, and in the real world pacifism is entirely compatible with private property, it just is not compatible with the defense of private property, which is an entirely different thing. It's the subtleties.

      In order for pacifism to be incompatible with private property, we have to first take each on its own merits, and then look at what occurs when we place these two ideas together in a vacuum (so to speak). We can't inject outside variables to test this case, because that would be outside the bounds of the question: is pacifism incompatible with private property?

      Here, let me give you an analogy dealing with computers and peripheral devices. I can look at a peripheral device and my computer, weighing each on its own merits, and then conclude from that information that they are compatible. You argument is essentially saying, "well, if I pour some water on the peripheral device, then they are no longer compatible". Yes, that is true. But, that has nothing to do with the ultimate compatibility of the two in the theoretical sense. Had you not poured water, the system would work perfectly (assuming no other variables).

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    8. To be more clear. It is obvious that the peripheral and the computer are compatible electronic devices. It is the water (being poured onto the device) that is the incompatible variable.

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    9. I don't buy the analogy. Water is no essential part of a computer or printer. But an inability to defend private property is inseparable from pacifism.

      Better anaolgy: the peripheral in question is an computer-controlled water display, but it constantly soaks the computer wherever you put it. It doesn't make sense to say, "The device is perfectly compatible with my computer; it's only all that water pouring out of it that ruins everything."

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    10. A+B=C. Where C=2.

      We cannot say that A+Bx=C (or even Ax+B=C), unless x is equal to 1. That is, x must be equal to 1 in order for us to test the compatibility of A and B being added together to produce C. You're attempting to plug in numbers other than 1 for x in order to prove that A+B=/=C. I agree that what you describe will be the case, that x will certainly be a variable in the real world of uncertainty, but that has nothing to do with A+B=C, or the compatibility of A to B.

      My essential disagreement is that any value other than 1 for x is incorrect for determining the compatibility of A and B to produce C, because the ultimate goal is to prove whether A+B=C, not whether A+Bx=C. If all that exists in the world is A+B, then where in the hell does this x that you speak of come from? It surely isn't derived from either A or B. It's an outside variable.

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    11. "because the ultimate goal is to prove whether A+B=C, not whether A+Bx=C."

      Your ultimate goal. My ultimate goal is to talk about *reality*, not an abstract equation.

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    12. Or, to put it another way, Joe, you are harping on the issue of whether these things are *logically* incompatible. They are not, they are not! You are correct on that point.

      But things can be *practically* incompatible as well as logically so: "They shouldn't get married: they're incompatible." The speaker is NOT saying it is logically impossible for the couple to marry!

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    13. You have no idea how frustrated I was getting.

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  2. Great Article.

    Having considered myself an anarchist for the last 2 or 3 years, over the last few weeks I have come to the conclusion that any stable society is going to need a well-defined and commonly accepted and enforced set of property rights rights. This would indeed appear to require a "system of interlocking institutions that have the final say on what is and isn't the just use of force in some territory," that one might just as well call a state.

    This "minarchist" state would only have the role of defining property right on utilitarian principals and would not even need to get involved in enforcing these rights (this could be done by "voluntary network of market defense firms" or other forms of voluntary actions). This would still be wildly different from any modern state and offer the greatest level of individual freedom constrained only by the particular kind of property rights a territory chose to adopt.

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  3. Great Article.

    Having considered myself an anarchist for the last 2 or 3 years, over the last few weeks I have come to the conclusion that any stable society is going to need a well-defined and commonly accepted and enforced set of property rights rights. This would indeed appear to require a "system of interlocking institutions that have the final say on what is and isn't the just use of force in some territory," that one might just as well call a state.

    This "minarchist" state would only have the role of defining property right on utilitarian principals and would not even need to get involved in enforcing these rights (this could be done by "voluntary network of market defense firms" or other forms of voluntary actions). This would still be wildly different from any modern state and offer the greatest level of individual freedom constrained only by the particular kind of property rights a territory chose to adopt.

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  4. "[A]n inability to defend private property is inseparable from pacifism."

    That's true. But as Joseph points out, you're conflating two questions:

    Question 1: Is pacifism incompatible with the defense of private property?

    Question 2: Is pacifism incompatible with private property?

    Consider it stipulated that the answer to question #1 is "yes."

    The answer to quest #2 is indeterminate because, among other reasons, you and Bob seem to disagree on what private property is, or rather what creates it. As concisely as possible, Bob seems to consider private property a necessarily emergent phenomenon of human interaction (i.e. an "objective fact of reality"), while you seem to consider it an optionally emergent phenomenon of same (i.e. a "social construct").

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  5. "But as Joseph points out, you're conflating two questions:"

    No, I'm not. I understand they are different questions. I'm saying that a negative answer to #1 means, for all practical purposes, a negative to #2, even if theoretically the answer to #2 is "yes."

    "Bob seems to consider private property a necessarily emergent phenomenon of human interaction (i.e. an "objective fact of reality"), while you seem to consider it an optionally emergent phenomenon of same (i.e. a "social construct")."

    This is odd, because:

    1) Social constructs ARE objective facts of reality: "Americans drive on the right while Brits drive on the left" is certainly an objective fact!

    2) I think you may be getting at something like natural versus conventional: it is natural for human beings to breath air, while conventional that in some cultures women wear veils in public.

    In that sense, having SOME notion of property arrangements is natural. But exactly what those amount to is conventional. And that is "an objective fact of reality": we only need look around and see how property rights differ from culture to culture.

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    1. Gene,

      When I allude to an "objective fact of reality," what I mean is "not only is X Y, but X would be Y whether or not anyone on earth agreed that X was Y."

      In that sense, social conventions aren't "objective facts of reality."

      But this may just point up a vocabulary deficiency on my part.

      What I am trying to say is that per Murphy, property rights exist (as a correct moral principle), whether anyone other than the person exercising them in any particular instance agrees that they exist or not. You, on the other hand, hold that property rights arise from social agreement/convention.

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    2. Well, I still think it is very weird to call the facts "Brits drive on the left" NOT an objective fact of reality when anyone can easily confirm it for themselves, while calling much fuzzier things objective facts. In fact, I'd say it is an objective fact of reality that property rights arise by convention, since we only need look and we can see that they do!

      "What I am trying to say is that per Murphy, property rights exist (as a correct moral principle), whether anyone other than the person exercising them in any particular instance agrees that they exist or not."

      So, let's say you have a hunter-gatherer tribe for whom private property in anything other than a trinket or such is unheard of: everything else they share in common. Are you saying they are somehow immorally violating objective moral principles in not divvying up everything and "privatizing" it all?

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    3. -----
      So, let's say you have a hunter-gatherer tribe for whom private property in anything other than a trinket or such is unheard of: everything else they share in common. Are you saying they are somehow immorally violating objective moral principles in not divvying up everything and "privatizing" it all?
      -----

      You're confusing "Tom Knapp says that Robert P. Murphy appears to believe X" with "Tom Knapp believes X."

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    4. Oh, OK, I thought you were with Murphy on this. My mistake.

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  6. I'm going to link to this post and call it, "Gene Callahan on Why Anarcho-Capitalism Works."

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    1. That would be cute, except I've shown there is nothing "anarchist" about this possibly workable system.

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  7. "Hmm, I think there is a name for an entity like that. If the system Murphy talks about gradually developed from our current situation, it would be a shift from one form of state to another. That form might be better than the one we have, and it might not. But it is certainly not "purely voluntary." It certainly will (and must) use force against those who have "honest disputes" with its laws. Such rhetoric is a way of winning recruits, not a way of seriously analyzing whatever merits the envisioned form of state might possess."

    But you previously stated:

    "And anyway, the best contract theorists, such as Hobbes, never thought there was such an historical arrangement: their argument was "It is as if people had formed such a compact, and we should so regard the state."

    If these entities are voluntary in their formation, i.e., every individual that has to pay for it consents to it, then it by definition is not the State that Hobbes was talking about. It is not "as if" people had formed such a compact, but a case where the people had actually formed the compact!

    "It certainly will (and must) use force against those who have "honest disputes" with its laws."

    This is true. But this doesn't mean it's involuntary in the sense of aggression vs. non-aggression. If the entity uses force in defense, then it is acting in a libertarian manner; if it imprisons someone with force, it's undeniable that the imprisonment is involuntary for that individual. But this is nothing contrary to libertarianism.

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  8. "If these entities are voluntary in their formation, i.e., every individual that has to pay for it consents to it, then it by definition is not the State that Hobbes was talking about. It is not "as if" people had formed such a compact, but a case where the people had actually formed the compact!"

    A) Because Hobbes did not hold that earlier states had arisen by such a compact, that means he would think an entity that did happen to arise by such an actual compact no longer qualified? No, he would say "that is even more of the Leviathan of which I speak."

    B) Many, many individuals who are not paying (and thus not consenting) will nevertheless be subject to this entity's laws. And many individuals who do pay may wish they lived under a different system, but will pay up because they see no alternative.

    "If the entity uses force in defense [OF LIBERTARIAN IDEAS], then it is acting in a libertarian manner... But this is nothing contrary to libertarianism."

    And if an entity uses force in defense of communist ideas, then it is acting in a communist manner. This is nothing contrary to communism.

    That fact is SOOO very interesting.

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    1. A) If Hobbes did believe that States could actually be formed upon complete voluntary consent, then I can't really argue this point. Sure, it's only an interpretation (unless he did actually say that somewhere), but it seems reasonable enough. However, libertarian theorists such as Rothbard stated their definition of the State as involuntary for some or many during its formation. The precise reason he argued for this definition was because "as if" is not actual, a very important distinction.

      So if we define States as (your intreptation of) Hobbes does, then I think libertarians would admit, sure it's a "State", but there still is an important distinction between this "State" and States formed with aggression.

      B) Lots of comparisons can be made to communism, it doesn't mean libertarianism is invalidated.

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    2. "If Hobbes did believe that States could actually be formed upon complete voluntary consent..."

      He never denied this. And, as I keep demonstrating, ancapistan is not "formed upon complete voluntary consent"! Only those who wish a regime of "rule by property owners" will have consented to this regime. This rest will be involuntarily dragged along.

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    3. Sure, because the rest will be aggressing?

      Here's an example so you understand my thought process. Let's say there's a geographical area with 100 people. 99 agree to not murder other people and 1 doesn't. The 99 voluntarily consent to pay for a private institution that will defend each of the 99 from those who decide to murder them (including members of the 99 who decide to murder other members). Well, unfortunately 1 individual doesn't consent! He goes around murdering everyone else anyway. He never agreed to this non-murdering rule!

      This is why I find it particularly ludicrous to say ancap defense entities are not formed upon complete voluntary consent. Sure, those who want to kill others or damage/steal other's property may not consent and may go around killing others and/or damaging/stealing others' property. This is understood though. Because aggressors' voluntary consent is not necessary since they are aggressing. Their liberty is taken away since they choose to use aggressive violence against others.

      So just because an individual doesn't consent to a private defense agency (which he doesn't have to even if he's not a murderer/thief of course; he could choose to defend himself, choose another agency, etc.), doesn't mean he can go around attacking people or their property. If they do, of course their consent will not be respected.

      The reason I use the murdering example is because it's likely you'll agree with that. But what is your position on property? Do you believe individuals don't have a right to own property?

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  9. "And anyway, the best contract theorists, such as Hobbes, never thought there was such an historical arrangement: their argument was "It is as if people had formed such a compact, and we should so regard the state.""

    And this is Murphy's argument. They make this claim, but that is not what happened, and to claim it is "as if" it happened is utter nonsense - on par with claiming that the state of affairs is "as if" you gave me all your stuff, so I'm not a thief, and really do own these things.

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    1. Matt, you just trolling, or will you be around for an answer?

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