The Weakest Argument for Anarchism Ever?

You be the judge.

Roderick Long (aka "BerserkRL"?) argues against Tyler Cowen's anti-anarchism argument as follows:

"Tyler Cowen... said what happens is that basically this [system of competing protection agencies] forms into a cartel, and it’s going to be in the interest of this cartel to sort of turn itself into a government. And any new agency that comes along, they can just boycott it.... Sure. All kinds of things could happen. Half the country could commit suicide tomorrow. But, is it likely?"

Well, given that in every single instance, without any exceptions, where we've seen a state of anarchy or semi-anarchy in the past, a government has arisen to fill the vacuum, the answer is, very obviously, "Yes, it's almost a near certainty that Cowen's scenario will play out the way he said it would."

But, I know, in the imaginary trufry market, this would never, ever happen.



  2. Far better on these matters is your evil twin:

  3. Very funny, because five more years of thought on these matters has led me to believe my evil twin was a nitwit. So perhaps you might consider the notion that, if this guy who wrote this article I like, who seemed to be right on, spent another five years thinking about these issues, and rejected his earlier position, maybe I should really try to follow his thought rather than just quoting back to him his earlier, less thought out, notions. Or something like that.

  4. "Far better on these matters is your evil twin:"

    What you really mean here is: "Years ago, before you had really thought through all of these political issues, your naive opinions aligned with mine. Therefore, your naive opinions are much better, because they won't prompt any re-thinking of the positions upon which I have currently based my self image."

  5. Good morning, Dr. Callahan.

    "maybe I should really try to follow his thought"

    What are your current thoughts? I can find many of your articles written circa 2002 -- 2007, and I can find many criticisms of other people's positions, but I cannot find what you currently believe. (I am not saying that it is not available; I am saying that I have not found it.)

    Obviously, the best way to discover what you believe is to ask you.

    Also, your post mentions past anarchist states and how governments eventually filled the vacuum. Can you point me to some evidence for this statement? I do not doubt its veracity, I just want to read and learn more about the anarchist position: good, bad, and indifferent.

    Thank you.

  6. Hi Victor. You might start here:

    "Anarchist states" doesn't really make sense -- if a territory has a state, it's not in anarchy. But look at, say, the Roman Revolution, the English Revolution, the French Revolution, or the American Revolution: in each case, a stronger (or at least as strong a) state wound up arising from a period of anarchy.

  7. Yes, my mistake! "Anarchist territory/area" is accurate.

    Thank you for the link. I look forward to reading it.

  8. Sorry, let me give you the link properly: Here.

  9. Where did Roderick write this?

  10. @ Murphy - the quote of Roderick addressing Cowen's criticism is from his 'Libertarian Anarchism: Responses to Ten Objections'.

    @ Callahan - I think Roderick's main point, is not that competing agencies under some future anarchic arrangement are likely to work, but rather that the argument - given certain conditions (absent the near infinite variables that we could posit) has not been demonstrated invalid on those grounds. There have been many arguments posited as to why anarchism will not work, but if they are in fact invalid, this doesn't necessarily mean anarchism will work. There may be other arguments that are sound and applicable. But in the process of argumentation, we can only deal with with them in a subsequent manner.

    So your insistence that historically 'anarchism' has not worked is not enough to demonstrate that the argument(s) is invalid under certain posited conditions, because these historical cases are simply loosely referring to every variable in existence at the time as an explanation as to why a certain outcome is not likely. That's fine, but it addresses the likelihood not the argument itself. I know this approach is rationalistic and mechanistic in certain ways, but they are appropriate to the extent there is an arguments to the contrary.

    In other words, imagine that I am a proponent of 'organic gardening' (there are quibbles over what that entails) and in every case where it has been tried, the soil was contaminated but we didn't have the scientific capability to completely understand all the variables as to what precisely was in the soil (or absent from it) that caused the conditions and outcomes that were not conducive to 'organic gardening'. Now it's not clear that this means there should in fact be contaminants in the food we eat, simply because in many recorded cases, there has been at this time. It would be fair to estimate and predict future outcomes of contamination based upon these cases if those are the conditions that remain. But those conditions are often different, and not the ones necessarily being posited. So the strength of the argument, if valid, is to match the strength of the counter argument that insists under certain specified conditions, anarchy will not work.

    A book of relevance perhaps,

  11. "Where did Roderick write this?"

    The magic of Google can save you!

  12. Hi. Have I been banned from this blog or is there just some technical issue going on; I can't seem to post anything.

  13. Never mind, it seems to work now.

    But I had posted a response discussing Oakshott's critique of Platonic rationalism and why it didn't really apply to libertarian thought, but the post did not seem to go through.

  14. First post of yours I've seen recently, Elisha. I will check pending posts to see if Blogger is hiding some from me.


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